Frantic phone calls had plagued her night. They did every full moon, for whatever reason. As it waned, so too would the robberies, DUIs and domestic violence, until they reached their normal levels again. It was enough to make a person superstitious. Most of the emergency dispatchers and responders believed that it was better to have those nights off, just not strongly enough to ever make the request.

She sat at the console, finishing up some notes on a particularly difficult situation. A child had called 911 after her mother’s drunk boyfriend had gotten violent with her. The girl was hiding under her bed and was startlingly calm. Clearly, she’d been through this before. The call was troubling because Irene could hear the boyfriend yelling and the crash of things thrown around far too well, based on where the girl had said she was hiding. She was glad the child had made that call but wondered what kind of hell she might live in on a regular basis.

After saving these notes and adding some details to a few others, Irene clocked out. She walked through the break room, past the hissing and gurgling coffee maker- caffeine being the last thing she wanted at the end of a graveyard shift- into the locker room. While grabbing her purse, she greeted one of the day dispatchers who was just depositing her things in her own locker. They chatted about how yet another full moon came and went. She rushed out from there, hoping to avoid the trap of any other conversation.

Working nights was unnatural and difficult. She even felt that it came to her more easily than it did others, but the rest of life worked against this. It never bothered her that most of the world slept while she took crazy phone calls, but everyone else was awake- life happened, while she hid behind blackout curtains and under blankets. That bothered her.

The drive from the city to her suburban home was one of her saving graces. She was able to decompress- shake things off in the space between the call center in the city and her house. This time of year, she rolled the windows down, letting cool, fresh air in. She cranked up the heat and twisted the dial to blast it at her feet. It was the perfect combination.

She flipped from radio station to radio station until she found the song that fit the moment. As soon as it was over, she resumed the search, intentionally avoiding the news, weather and any talk radio. She knew more than the local news did, scarcely cared about sunshine or rain and couldn’t handle the rehearsed, fake voices of radio personalities after a night of distressed and panicked callers.

The drive never took long. Inbound traffic lanes crawled, but she and the relatively few others leaving the city flew with little hindrance. She had just enough time to get the night’s events out of her mind and behind her before pulling into the garage.

She was greeted by the smell of coffee and found her mother in the kitchen, making breakfast. Usually, just oatmeal or a couple of eggs. She waved to her like she always did, then skipped up the stairs and down the hall. She slowly let herself into her son’s bedroom and sat on his bed. She sat still, not wanting to wake him up just yet. In that moment, all of the gravity of the night and her job was truly gone. There was only the glow of the rising sun and the deep breaths of sleep from this tiny person. She needed sleep and he needed to get up and to go preschool, but it was in this moment, in this space that her life made the most sense.

Once he was gone for the day, she’d fall asleep in her cave of a bedroom. Her sleep was like death, dreamless and without interruption. When she awoke, it would all begin again. She knew the next night would be easier.

★                    ★                    ★

There’s a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places, the distance is even shorter.