© 2024 Interlochen
CLASSICAL IPR | 88.7 FM Interlochen | 94.7 FM Traverse City | 88.5 FM Mackinaw City IPR NEWS | 91.5 FM Traverse City | 90.1 FM Harbor Springs/Petoskey | 89.7 FM Manistee/Ludington
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Essays by Karen Anderson: Awake at Night

Illustration by Kacie Brown

My mother told me that when she was a little girl, there were times she couldn’t sleep at night. “I would lie in bed and imagine that somewhere in the world a single gas station was open,” she said. “Then I didn’t feel so lonely and could go back to sleep.”

Her story comforted me, too, when I was awake in the quiet darkness. I could picture that same gas station—the pump out front and a light on inside, with one guy at a desk reading a magazine. Somehow, the world wasn’t so scary and I wasn’t so alone.

Of course, even when my mother was a child, there must have been a hospital open at night or a police station. And after all, it was daytime on the other side of the planet. But those things don’t necessarily occur to a small child. They didn’t occur to me.

Just recently, I remembered my mother’s imaginary gas station when I couldn’t sleep—and thought that today, there are countless businesses open twenty-four hours. And I wondered, why am I not comforted?

Because everything feels too wide-awake now, too round-the-clock, nonstop. Hectic, demanding, exhausting. I can’t find the OFF button—for the world, or for my mind. So, I picture that single gas station, with a light on inside.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.