My daughter works at Hideaway Pizza at OU’s Campus Corner. She doesn’t have a car at the moment so I drove over to pick her up at 11 last night. She warned me that I might have wait a little while. I said that I didn’t mind, and that I would listen to my audio book.
I parked in Hideaway’s parking lot, killed the engine, rolled down the windows, and started chapter 3 of The Goldfinch. The night air was warm, but tolerable. There were two men either loading or unloading goods from a truck into the back kitchen door or the other way around. I wasn’t sure. They chatted casually as they worked. They had done this a hundred times and paid little attention to what they were doing. No hurries, no worries.
The few sounds on campus had a closeness to them, and the warm air seemed to soften the small spurts of chatter that wove themselves into my book. For a moment, I felt that the few people out on a Wednesday night the week before the fall semester were connected in some way. A fellowship of sorts. A fellowship that for a moment I was a part of. Campus Corner should have been my home turf because I am an OU alumnus, but I spent very few nights here. I never explored the late nights of my campus, and so I felt a yearning to have embraced the fuller experience of college life when I had the chance.
Although the book was very good, I became distracted and stepped out of the car. I stood next to the car and look around me for a minute or so. To the east and saw that Pickerman’s was still open, so I walked toward it leaving my windows down and my phone in the passenger side seat. There was something about the scene that felt safe, like no one would rob my car.
In Pickerman’s, there were a half a dozen young women whom I assumed were students about to start a new semester. There was a uniformity to their appearance that led me to believe that they were sorority girls; t-shirts, Nike running shorts, expensive running shoes, and tan legs. There were two young men chatting loudly behind the counter. I didn’t even walk all the way to the counter. I just called out from the door “Do you guys have coffee?” I really wanted decaf, but I figured there was no point in asking for decaf if they didn’t have any coffee.
“No. Sorry, man”
I turned around and left. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like going home and sleeping at all, even though it was passed my customary bedtime. I wanted to be out all night, perhaps. I felt like I could pull it off. Although, I didn’t know what I would do. Perhaps eat and then sit on a bench and drink coffee. I don’t drink alcohol, so that option was off the table.
By the time I reached the car, my daughter was walking through the parking lot to meet me. My phone and my car were untouched as I had expected. We chatted as I drove her home. When we arrived we did not go inside. We sat on the warm driveway until her boyfriend arrived. The three of us took just a moment to look at the stars. My daughter could not see them. I pointed out that she did not have her glasses.
“Duh,” she said, and we laughed.
I knew then that my night was over because the last thing I do before bed is look at the stars in the quiet of my sleeping neighborhood. My home turf.