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I awoke this morning before the dawn. What had roused me from my slumber? My own dreams? An errant noise? The beat of my own heart? I don’t know.

The glow of the streetlights poured through the naked windows in the upstairs room of the warehouse in which I lay. The yellow glow of their illumination gave aid to my eyes, which were blurred with fatigue as I strained to read my watch. Three-forty a.m.

With a muffled groan I turned to my side, settling into the old green couch. Closing my eyes, I tried to will myself back to sleep. My eyes, traitors to my will, refused to remain shut. Each time I opened them, it was to check my watch anew, only to realize time was crawling past.

Surrendering to wakefulness, I sat up and got off the couch; shivering in what had been the cold, drafty office above the loading bay. I walked to the windows, looking out toward the city. How many, I wondered, how many other wretched souls were already pondering the day instead of enjoying the sweet bliss of dreams, washing away the worries of their lives? Or, was I not just alone, but lonely in my wakeful state?

The sounds of the neighborhood, never the best place, were muted, and yet were born on the night air to my ears. Traffic from nearby highways was already beginning to pick up as early commuters raced toward their daily grind.

Across the distance, the city skyscrapers glowed with their signature lights, making San Diego’s skyline so beautifully unique. To the right of my view, one of many cruise ships which make San Diego a port of call was docked at B Street Pier. The string of lights that extended over it from bow to stern gave an aura of festivity to an otherwise slumbering vessel.

How long, I wondered, before it and its human cargo would move on, to be replaced by yet another ship filled with those on a similar quest? Seeking fun, feasting, relaxation, and of course, a little anonymous flirtation with someone who, once the cruise ended, they likely would never see again.

My gaze fell on what seemed to be the lights of the staterooms. A sudden pang struck me; a sense of longing to leave with that ship, bound anywhere, or nowhere, I cared not which.

Further scanning the city’s night from that warehouse window, I hugged myself. Against the chill or loneliness enveloping me, I don’t know.

To the right of the cruise ship was the silhouette of the airport terminals. The air traffic control tower stood dark, save one glowing red light. The bustle and activity that were its life pulse was still to await the dawn.

I looked down, seeing the ribbons of train track that run past the warehouse; dimly in the night they shown, reflecting some of the light, perhaps, or only standing in relief from the deeper darkness around them.

How long would it be, before those tracks would feel the first vibration of the day’s trains running?

My eyes, heavy with fatigue, yet still betrayed me. Unable to return to sleep, I turned away from the window. I turned back into the room, and also back into myself, and into my thoughts.

I wondered if perhaps a brief exploration of the rooftop might help. Under the light of a moon nearly full, how would the night appear? The moon had, across the hours, gone without notice, keeping silent watch over the world below till it was now in the western night sky, its glow diffused by the mists of the marine layer from the nearby coast. The access to the roof was opposite from where I had been standing, gazing out at the city. A window, which doubled as a door, beckoned. Under it stood a crate which served as a step to those cautious with their weight upon it. On closer inspection, someone prior to me had not been so cautious, for a slat was broken through. Opening the window, I sat on the ledge and swung my legs out. Outside were steps of a much sturdier construction. I sat on them as I slipped my sandals onto my feet.

Trying to move quietly, I stepped towards the roof’s edge, which overlooked the tracks below. For protection, there was a wall of about three feet or so in height. I leaned both elbows on it, looking out and downward along the tracks, my hair falling forward across my face in a curtain closing off the view of the tracks from my sight. Their desolate appearance belied the activity I knew they would soon be party to.

A green signal light stood as a lone sentinel by the tracks, informing no one in particular that it was all clear for a train to proceed.

I breathed in deeply of the damp night air, holding my light jacket tightly around me. What, I thought, what would I look like to someone watching from below at that moment? Slightly unnerved by the even remote possibility, I moved along the wall toward the opposite end of the roof, fully conscious that my white jacket would stand out to any observer. Carefully I placed my steps, trying and making sure my foot would find solid purchase on the old warehouse’s roof before it bore my full weight.

Looking back at the windows and to the one through which I had come, the glow into the room in which I had slept was like the yellow suffused aura of a fireplace, though of course, it was simply the light emanating from the street lights opposite. The other windows across the wall’s face were blank and staring, only darkness.

After minutes of introspective musing, I carefully retraced my steps to re-enter the building through the window that had been my door into the night.

Turning on a light, I realized I was not alone, at least, not altogether. There, on the floor, was a noxious creature; a prehistoric pet, perhaps, survivor of millennia of changes on our world. About 3 inches in length, it didn’t run, but slowly made its way across the floor toward the duffel, which held my belongings. Shuddering with revulsion, I picked up the notebook in which I am now writing and smashed it down on the offending roach. I wondered, thinking what else might have been about me as I slept.

The sky began lightening, in preparation of the dawn. The first rumbling of the trucks came, as an early morning trolley rushed past. Perhaps its driver had been one of those I had heard earlier driving by on the freeway?

The sky lightened, changing from night's black to deep shades of colors, which slowly faded to pastels before disappearing into morning's pale blue. The sounds of jet engines warming reached my ears from the cargo planes, which were those planes closest to me in the proximity of the airport. Soon, they would be taxiing to life off to destinations unknown to me, sure in their delivery of the contents to the recipients on the other end.

Five a.m... And I could hear the call of reveille being played at MCRD. Of course! The recruits who would be our nation’s newest defenders were being roused to a new day. God bless those young men and women!

Sounds of this warehouse district awakening became stronger. Trucks and people arriving at the different buildings around me and the building in which I stood.

A new day was born. Amidst the morning’s cacophony my fatigue washed over me and I lay down to return to restless sleep, surrendering at last, to my dreams.


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