it is once again past three in the morning. Three, the devil’s hour, the hour where spirits are most active. I can feel the eddies and currents flow through the space in between my toes. The off-white shadows of the walls seem to gleam with ghosts, spots, atoms that dance and swing through the air. Or maybe I’m just exhausted.

For some reason, no matter how hard I try to be a morning person, I just can’t be. I enjoy waking up early once in awhile, cherish the morning sun against my bare legs (especially in summer) as I take my morning commute. From Hell’s Kitchen through Times Square to Midtown, 37th street. Past the theater district, where tourists get up earlier than I do (how they can manage, I will never know. You wake up early on vacation, I guess. Disturbed sleep patterns and everything). Times Square, of course, sparkles (I can’t think of another word for it. Gleam and glimmer don’t have the same BOOM connotation that sparkle has) and waves. There is always one silly mascot to make me smile on my walk. I walk past Bryant Park, little green tables in the shadow of the public library inviting, but empty, as everyone around hurries to get to work on time. I am beginning to notice the difference between a well-cut suit and an average suit.

A girl’s got no right to have an existential crisis in the middle of her busy, bustling Sex-in-the-city esque life. But recently I haven’t been able to draw anything or get myself to move and push forward, hard, on my portfolio. The dream I always wanted, to work at a comic book company… right? Four months ago I had no idea this dream existed. All I knew was that 1) I liked to draw, and 2) I liked comic books and graphic novels. From twelve years onward I devoured volumes of Japanese manga, and later on developed a taste for the superhero genre. Ah, superheroes. As I read through all the X-Men and Iron Man archives at work, I’m starting to realize more things. That the superhero is, well, a superhero. They always swoop in and save the day just in time from the invading aliens or rampaging genetic experiments. I read a funny post about the drawbacks of living in the Marvel Universe–that the odds of you being born with superpowers was less than that of being struck by lightning, but if you were struck by lightning in the Marvel Universe it would probably give you superpowers anyway! But we love them. Or at least, I do. Maybe it’s the sadist in me, but comic books have such interesting violence. A raw appeal to our inner sociopaths. The blood arcs so elegantly, the entrails are used so efficiently, and the good guys walk away with nary a scratch (or they heal really fast. A lot of them heal fast. One of the requirements of being a superhero, I suppose–high pain tolerance).

Of course it’s all escapism. Even when I’m at my computer, reading through some comics in order to write a recap, I’m escaping. New York doesn’t exist without its Triskelion, nor Queens without Peter Parker. The art, bold crisp striking lines with vibrant colors, the layout so cinematographic, makes it all the more realistic.

I’m starting to see the world as a giant comic book layout. When I eat lunch, the plaza flattens out into a page. How would I introduce the characters, me and two of my fellow interns, on the granite bench? Panoramic view first? Camera going down? Going up? Sideways? Do I break the fourth wall? Am I breaking the fourth wall?

I printed out all the pages of an old novel written with a friend so many years ago in the hopes of salvaging it for the comic portfolio. My writing of course is lackluster, but there is quite a bit of action and a lot of dialogue, and  may suffice for a few scenes. No, it will suffice. I loved writing it. I loved every goddamn minute we put into those three hundred pages (shrunken down, a hundred or so). I loved that world because SATs didn’t exist, only magic exams, and where, though empires rose and fell, nothing ever changed–when it came down to the characters, it was all about love. Love in every dot in every i and in all the spaces between the words, in editorial comments and lines of description. The writing might have sucked (forgive me, Kieran, but my writing did suck) but there is a liveliness that I haven’t felt in writing prose in such a very long, long time.

Maybe I’m being melodramatic. Of course things change. Anna Quindlen puts it so eloquently in one of her books, that “his emotions were too raw to be that of an adult’s” or something like that (I probably butchered it). The magic certainly hasn’t burned its way out of my life yet–there is plenty to be found here. But I feel like something’s missing (something’s always missing, isn’t it?) Maybe this is just part of growing up. I have come to the conclusion that growing up means facing your first real heartbreak and coming out a better person for it, and experiencing great, wonderful changes because of it. Building the republic of Heaven, so to speak, in Pullman’s terms.

I just feel like there is so much left unsaid. I am so frustrated. I’m adult, but nobody treats a twenty-year-old like an adult, and I’m wondering whether I will ever grow up, or whether there is such a thing as really growing up. I’ve grown up from the small shy fifteen year old girl who hid behind her glasses and never spoke in class. I’ve somewhat grown up from the seventeen-year-old seething away at her parents and the world. “Let it go,” you’ll get told. “Move on with your life.” And I do, I do, oh how much I do want to continue onward and see what adventure lies ahead, but I never want to forget what made being a teenager for me. Even now I am loath to write the word, so overused, so seemingly cliche (then again, my life’s a cliche, whatever). It was endless hours on the phone, the happiness of a three-am call, random text messages, and the words the flowed, poured and crescendoed from everything. Words that arose suddenly like fog on a clear day, or disappeared into the air like cirrus clouds. Words that were played with with all innocence.

Somewhere in a parallel universe, everything works out perfectly. But even then, even then, as Pullman has shown me, as I find in those books every time I read them, that to grow up is to say goodbyes and part, sometimes forever. But also that to grow up means to mature and continue onward as a person despite all the subsequent anguish. And jesus, there was anguish.

But alas, the hour is almost up. My eyes bulge red out of their sockets. My brain yells at me to just go to bed already. “But hush now, darling, don’t you cry,” sings Colin Meloy through my computer. “Your reward’s in the sweet by-and-by.”