I awoke suddenly, in the darkness, and lay still, confused. My alarm clock wasn’t ringing. I groaned, closed my eyes, and immediately began to fight the urge to sleep. Rolling over onto my side, I switched on my reading lamp, and turned it so that it was beaming directly into my face. Through my eyelids, its almost like being in the sun: a little warmth from the bulb, the red and crimson glow through my eyelids, the banishment of the dark.
I lay still, equipoised between sleep and being truly awake, trapped between two forces, and realized that something was off. Something was troubling me. What was it? I lay still, trying to figure it out, and then realized: no alarm clock. What time was it? Turning back over, I saw that it was about 6AM.
I failed to fall back asleep. Instead, I rose, suddenly invigorated, and showered, shaved, got dressed, and hit the street. The sunlight was wintry and cold, bright and indifferent as dull chrome. The eastern horizon was effulgent. I rode mostly empty subway cars to work, and then ascended to the 14th floor, where I the cafeteria resides.
And man, what a cafeteria. Banks of scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes, tater tots. Omelette and smoothie stations, a whole slanted surface of crushed ice with tubs of freshly cut fruit glistening beneath harsh white fluorescent lights. Cereal, bagels, cream cheeses of six different flavors. Massive gleaming silos of coffee. Armies of sliced bread, tubs of peanut butter, jams, cottage cheese, granola, yogurt. And on and on. There is no hunger that can do justice to such a feast, such an enticing, fresh smorgasboard of delicacies and basic nutrients. I piled two plates high and walked into the seating area, from which I can gaze out over the Hudson, see the Statue of Liberty, the Jersey shore.
I sat down and ate. It was only 7:30. Eventually I shoved my plates away, and put my feet up, took out my Jack Vance collection of short stories, and settled down to read with my cup of coffee. The sound of the employees laughing and joking to each other in Spanish. The clink and clank of metal pots, the whir of the air conditioning. New Yorkers already awake and bustling beneath me, far down below on the city streets, in the awakening offices, riding buses, subway cars, elevators, cabs and cars.
Man, I don’t know if I’ll ever wake up this early on purpose, if I’ll ever be able to drag myself to work an hour and a half before I’m supposed to start, but if I do, if I manage to summon the willpower or sheer bloody minded perversity to do so, you’ll know where to find me. Stuffed with good food, feet up, reading and alone in the cafeteria, replete and satisfied and ready for what the day may bring.