I like to be up when it’s dark in the morning, to move sleepily around in the dark, working and sipping coffee and listening to music undistracted. I keep the lights off, which keeps the visual noise off. Outside, only the moon, maybe one neighbor’s television flashing blue and green on the living room wall.
My preference for the pre-dawn isn’t original, but it’s deeply felt. I’m thinking about those deeply felt preferences, the little things we love and loathe, and how each on its own is insignificant but, when taken in aggregate, they make the whole of a personality.
I got into a joking to-and-fro with a friend this week about daylight saving time. When we “spring forward,” she argued, it takes her weeks to adjust, to stop feeling rushed in the mornings, to get over having “lost” an hour. She receives this lost hour as a harbinger of summer, her least favorite time of year, its heat and humidity. I played the smug victor, delighting in my extra hour of morning darkness and its complementary hour of evening light.
I often stumble across this list of Susan Sontag’s likes and dislikes, a quirky assemblage of the mundane and the extraordinary:
Things I like: fires, Venice, tequila, sunsets, babies, silent films, heights, coarse salt, top hats, large longhaired dogs, ship models, cinnamon, goose down quilts, pocket watches, the smell of newly mown grass, linen, Bach, Louis XIII furniture, sushi, microscopes, large rooms, boots, drinking water, maple sugar candy.
Things I dislike: sleeping in an apartment alone, cold weather, couples, football games, swimming, anchovies, mustaches, cats, umbrellas, being photographed, the taste of licorice, washing my hair (or having it washed), wearing a wristwatch, giving a lecture, cigars, writing letters, taking showers, Robert Frost, German food.
Each item taken alone could be passed off as a caprice, but in the list, there are clues to the person — a person who likes babies but dislikes couples, who likes the smell of mowed grass and dislikes the cold. (A fellow vernal equinox partisan, perhaps?) Absent any explanation, the meaning of the list is malleable.