Ruby

It’s about midnight. My hair has somehow made its way out of its neat ponytail and formed a cloud of black string around my head. I push it behind my ears. The tent is glowing with light from a flashlight lantern. My friend Will is playing guitar quietly. Becca, the dark-haired girl who runs the open-mic nights at the synagogue, is singing softly. We’re camped out for Relay for Life, an overnight cancer-prevention fundraising event where people take turns walking around a track while everyone else hangs out in the tent, talking, eating, playing music, and occasionally dozing off.

The night is filled with background chatter and shadows dancing outside the tent. I tune in to the stillness in the tent, the steadiness of all of our breath, and the warmth of the flannel-lined sleeping bags on the cold grass. My eyes close and time speeds up around me. I can hear Kate and Ben talking and I think about how I love them. I realize that my best friend, Sam, is next to me. He is always next to me, when we are in our adjacent houses, or when we are walking on the beach down the street, or when we are sitting at the lunch table alone.

My head is in the crook of his shoulder and I can feel his pulse. It is slow and I realize he is asleep. Then I realize that I am too. I smile at how I can be in two places at once. I am in the real world and I am inside my head. Sam’s with me in both places.

Ben and Kate are smiling at each other. I love them both. An ambulance screams in the street behind the field and I hear people outside wonder aloud about it.

I fall into actual REM sleep eventually and do not dream. Suddenly it is two hours later; Sam wakes me up and pulls me out of the tent. It’s our turn to walk the track. ♦