Technically, Zero Hour, according to Google (because I checked) is the time when an operation or a coup is supposed to begin. Instinctively, I knew that. But this morning as I ambled the streets with a tired Maeby in tow, I couldn’t help feeling the phrase “zero hour” was an appropriate description for the moment. Maybe it’s because there were zero (do we pluralize zero grammatically?) other people on the streets with me. Maybe it’s because it was gentle 7 o’clock sunny with a 6 AM attitude. In my version of Zero Hour, everything’s gentle. Everything’s null.
As an introvert, I’ve been looking for quiet corner to the city that I can have all to myself. This isn’t just naive; it’s impossible. There is no solitary Starbucks table. There is no empty Subway car. I don’t even have my own classroom–I travel between classrooms and spend my prep period in a bustling teachers lounge. There’s really no such thing as quiet in New York.
You adjust, of course. You grow accustomed to the rap music on the sidewalk, the siren’s constant song, and the rickety thrum of the subway. At first, when you move to New York, it’s not about tolerating the sounds–it’s more that you’re in constant awe that there’s a subway beneath your feet, and the sound is loud enough to blow your skirt up. You don’t just ameliorate to the sounds–you marvel at them. You embrace the new sounds because they are part of the new chapter of your life. And then they become so much apart of you that you even forget to listen for them. And you like that too.
But then, sometimes, in moments that used to be quiet, your heart aches more than your ears do for a babbling brook. And you find yourself wishing for that little corner of New York–that place where you are “you” out loud but there’s no one else to hear it.
Maybe it will only come once a year, with the 7:00 that feels like 6:00 Spring Forward morning, but this morning I found my Zero Hour–the space where I’m the only person in New York, and the only sound is my boots plodding on the pavement (and Maeby’s toenails clicking against the concrete).
When I was in High School, I’d look for ways to claim a moment or a place that was special to me. I once impulsively carved my initials in a Starbucks table, striving for permanence (they removed the table within the week; so much for permanence). My name appears no less than three times at Chatfield High School–once in the wood loft of the theater, once on top of a secret corner of the roof, and once, unexplainably, behind the wall of the old elevator shaft. In my first apartment, I painted a giant wall VIBRANT purple, because I was VIBRANT PURPLE at 20. In college, I buried a possession on campus, hoping erosion would never unearth the piece of myself I’d left there. But the older I get, the more sensible I become about vandalism and litter–I look for other ways to leave my mark.
In my private little Zero Hour, I declared that morning mine. And maybe no one else will remember that I was there, but that’s because that moment belongs just to me. With every boot pace on the pavement, I will remember: I was here, I was here, I was here.