On “Only One Awake”

by Rabiah Na’Allah

There was a time when the air was so still, the only thing I could hear were my own footsteps. It was the day that I would be moving back home to Peoria, IL after being on the Iowa City campus for three weeks in September 2020. Living in a dorm at the height of the pandemic was ultimately the reason my parents insisted I move back home. They were worried for my safety. At the time, I hadn’t been able to do too much exploring because of COVID, so this moment outside stands out as one last adventure. My family would make the journey from Peoria at around 8:00 am. They’d drive straight on the highway for 153 miles to get me. The soft roar of our Honda Odyssey’s engine would be the only sound against the quiet morning on their way. 

I had been up for at least 24 hours hanging out with friends, packing up my dorm, and soaking up every last bit of Iowa City before I’d be stuck in my hometown like a high schooler again. The sleep deprivation combined with the reality of leaving my friends overtook me all at once and I started to cry. All I wanted was to be free. I wanted to get to know this new place but I didn’t have the time. I then thought about it some more and realized it was only 5am. I actually did have some time. I zipped up my suitcase and put the last bit of packaging tape on my box. I decided to go outside. I wanted to walk around aimlessly with my camera while very few people were up yet. I couldn’t really think straight, and my head was pounding, but for some reason, I just wanted to feel the morning air on my skin. On my walk, I came across this beautiful house. What drew me to it was the singular lit-up window I could see from where I stood on the sidewalk, in contrast to the other darkened ones. The light let me know someone was there. At this moment I felt no one could understand how I was feeling, but the light in that beautiful blue home relaxed me. I was suddenly at peace.  

When I see this photograph, I can immediately hear a soft hum. The sounds of the early morning take over the neighborhood. I can imagine the occasional car, breeze, and senior citizens up for a walk. This moment is morning dew. The kind where there is a little water on the grass, and some fog in your line of view. It would be 63 degrees and the breeze would come and go. It’s my idea of perfect weather. You wouldn’t need a coat, and there would be no beads of sweat on your forehead. You could walk without thinking of the time, and everything you saw would be beautiful. You’d be comfortable in your isolation. You’d be the Only One Awake.

About Rabiah Na’Allah

Rabiah Na’Allah and is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Graphic Design and Cinema. She is from Peoria, Illinois, and the self-proclaimed middle child of three sisters. Rabiah is heavily involved in the University of Iowa Honors Program and serves as an Honors Outreach Ambassador and leader on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion council. She is involved in various organizations on campus including the Muslim Student Association, African Student Association and Student Advocates of Planned Parenthood. When she’s not working at school, you can find her doing photography, volunteering at a number of student productions through the Theater program, analyzing her favorite movies, or binge-watching Criminal Minds.