Arizona nightdwelling

I am now in Arizona, a land of continuous sun. It’s where I’ve wanted to put myself for years now, and I’m finally here.

Despite the persistent sun (to the tune of 115 degrees), I am a nightdweller. I’ve gotten a job as a sleep technologist working 12-hour overnight shifts in a hospital (cue the sound of my masters in linguistics being flushed down the toilet). Therefore, the setting and the rising of the sun are the bookends of my days. I usually go to bed at 8am and get up at 5pm. I get supremely annoyed when people are noisily going about their business at noon, and even though I have no right to tell them to shut the jizz up, I want to. Lawnmowers have become enemy number one. Children playing in the pool has become the equivalent of the upstairs neighbor playing dubstep at his shitty party at 3am.

On my days off is when I feel this most acutely. When I’m working, I can forget that it’s night. Everything is quieter and I’m at my best, but those are the only real cues that it’s nighttime. The fluorescent lights and lack of windows make me feel like it could be any time/I could be 50 feet underground/on Jupiter. Time ceases to exist except as numbers standing out in white on my computer screen. On my days off, the world is only spending time with me for a handful of hours. I’m eating breakfast while they’re eating dinner. I could easily party until 6am (if I had friends here) while they’d be dead by 2. I have to rush to get my ‘morning’ Starbucks or to get to Target before it closes. And heaven forbid I have to do anything during business hours.

Last Friday night I woke up at 8pm, horrified that it was already dark, and went to go see a movie. I caught the last showing of The Diary of a Teenage Girl and left the theater at midnight. The streets were dead, everything was closed. That’s when the waiting begins. The world here ends at midnight and leaves me to fend for myself. I went back to my mostly quiet apartment, overheard a drunken fight between shirtless men that ended, ‘give me my fucking beer back and keep steppin”, and spent the next six hours in dark silence. I read, drank, watched Netflix, read some more, drank some more. Because no one is awake there’s no one to call to catch up or hang out with. There are no runs to the grocery store or the bank. I can’t get my oil changed or wander the stacks at the library, two things I’ve been meaning to do for weeks but haven’t found the daytime hours for. I’m in an overly air-conditioned vacuum. I light candles. I feel stifled. I go outside and sweat within minutes. I look at my phone. It looks back at me. I go back inside and start the cycle over again.

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Icelandic midnight sun

My time in Europe ended with a trip to Iceland, a convenient pause on the way back to the US.

In sum, Iceland felt martian. I arrived in the dead of night to the midnight sun. We drove through lava fields, great black and green mounds covering the ground.

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It was only ever dusk at darkest the three days I was there. I stayed with a Chinese family who had moved there because they were in the tourism business. I fell asleep in their spare bedroom at 3am, the gray not-quite-sunlight coming through the sheer curtains.

Everything works perfectly in Iceland, much like it does in Scandinavian countries. Tourism is bringing in tons of money, and it’s obvious in the infrastructure the small fishing country has to sustain bougie tourists. Since the re-vamping of the Blue Lagoon and the free stopover offered to Icelandair flyers on their way to Europe or the US, tourism has expanded greatly in recent years. (Not only was this evident by everyone and their mom (literally) being there, and as a consequence guided trips and transportation to those trips being made so easy a three-year-old could figure it out, but a swimmingcapped Icelandic woman with fuschia lipstick confirmed this at the Blue Lagoon as I wiped the silicone ish she was handing out all over my face.)

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I learned that there, lots more people than normal believe in fairies, they eat raw puffin hearts, the national beer is like 2% (learned the hard/expensive way), and Icelandic is frustratingly only hardly familiar from my days studying Old Norse.

My last day there, I sat at a nearby lake. The sun was out, the water was calm, and across the way I could see that in lieu of a beach there was only green. A derelict wooden cabin was visible on the shore. It looked like the Shire. I sat there for a long while and read.