It's getting rather late, the kitchen is closed, and the sprinklers should turn on in about 11 minutes. If all goes as usual, Mom will send Dad out of their bedroom for snoring in about 15 minutes. It's Tuesday night, so Conan O'Brien should be on in 20 minutes, but I have a feeling his show is still on hiatus because of the Olympics. It's funny how I've come to rely on consistency more than anything. Summer's fleeting inconsistency has left sleep an afterthought.
I'm not awake because I want to be, but because I can be. My contact lenses are dry and rubbing against the insides of my eyes; I can hear a distinct whir with every blink. All is well as long as the sprinklers turn on six minutes. All is well, but sleep is an afterthought. By now my dad has probably gone through his usual procedure of trying to fall asleep on the living room couch. In a minute or two he should be in the den watching the information bar roll a-cross ESPN or CNN with the important news not relating to Paris Hilton or even next season's "The Apprentice."
I could go upstairs and talk to him, regurgitate the same conversation about colleges that we have every night at about 12:42. We would end up talking about schools and why I should stop worrying, stop keeping myself awake, and how I've done all I can possibly do. He'd tell me I'm obsessing, and I'd reject the comment, explaining that I need to focus on what's important. And in the end, he'd comment that the Dodgers won and it's all because their young, new Harvard-trained general manager relies on statistics rather than faith in intangibles.
But he has faith in me. He has faith that my work will pay off, that I'm in the running, and that everything will turn out for the best. But what makes me so different is that I rely on faith to win a game of statistics and on-base percentages.
Then, he'd tell me that he's already starting to feel the pain of seeing his son go away, and how proud he is of me. And I'd tell him that I love him, tell him I trust him more than he could know, and I'd find myself in the kit-chen where I'd get a glass of milk and add Ovaltine, a lot of Ovaltine. I'd wash my glass and turn toward the door, probably to find Dad sneaking some peanut butter. "I'll tell Mom," I'd threaten. And maybe I would as a joke some time. Then, I'd reach over, pick up the jar, and take a thick-scooped tablespoon of Jif Creamy for myself.
"You know, you're just like your mother. You've got this imposter syndrome. She has a Ph.D. and she never feels as though she's proved herself. You know as well as I that she still has trouble confronting her SAT scores."
"What SAT scores?" I'd chuckle and so would he. Mom has long since forgotten those scores which were supposedly so awful that upon seeing them I might very well turn to a pillar of salt.
"I see you sitting and looking over those student body profiles for the same colleges over and over. They're just numbers. You can't put a number on accomplishment, Gabe. You can't put a number on sensitivity or personability."
I might nod; I might respond. I'd probably shift the focus to some History Channel show I'd seen and how it may fit into my next book or essay. He'd know just as much about the topic as I just because he knows those things. We'd talk for a while about Eastern European pogroms or '50s music, and I'd start to wonder whether or not he's lived for a thousand years.
Then he'd tell me good-night, that he has work in the morning, and he loves me. A couple of minutes later the sprinklers would turn off; our conversations usually last the length of the sprinklers. A few minutes later I'd hear him snoring. At that moment I'd know exactly why my mom sent him out: so we could talk.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.