Allegra Goodman

       I am working late, burning the midnight oil, as my father used to call it. He would come in and check on me when I was staying up late in high school. I sat at my small dark desk with the big lamp shining down in its big lampshade and I worked. My desk faced the window, but it was dark outside, and all I could see was the lights of an occasional car as it eased its way past our house. We lived on a small street, and no one drove by in a hurry. “Just remember,” my father would say, “there is a point of diminishing returns.” My father is a morning person.
       There is something grand and melancholy about working alone at night. The darkness in the window and the quiet house set the stage for the lone figure at the desk. I always feel diligent and lonely and a little sorry for myself. I almost never work at night anymore. I don’t have the burden of homework, or the luxury of waking myself. My children wake me every morning, early. But I am going to New York tomorrow, and I have to give a speech there. I haven’t written the speech yet. I have left it to the last minute. Now I am fighting sleep. The house is warm. My children are snoring, looking much smaller in their beds than they do when they are awake. My children’s days are all separate. They have no appointments or assignments. It would be good to lie down next to them among their stuffed animals, to curl up with their bears and rabbits and the stuffed dolphin.
       This must be the point of diminishing returns. Besides, my husband needs to use the computer. His evening has just begun. My husband really is a night person.