My current job comes with a 6:30 a.m. start time, so I've tossed my grad school schedule to the wind and reverted to a schedule that actually fits with my natural cadence.
As I navigate my bike down 14th street, the sky is usually just giving in to daylight. Horns don't honk this early, and bus drivers don't swerve across the bicycle lanes. Even cat calls are subdued.
In the early morning, only people with hard bodies are on the road. Construction workers, cracking jokes and eating egg mcmuffins, pretending to jump out of the road when I coast by their trucks. A laborer on a rusty cycle challenges me to a race, and we tear down the empty street, me in a white pencil skirt, him in faded Lee denim with a dusty hand print on the pocket.
There are runners, determined and unsmiling, their eyes glued to the uneven sidewalks. Women do lunges on the steps of the Masonic temple for their bootcamp session, with matching sports bras and workout pants.
When I get to Metro Center, there is music. A full jazz band with an open case for money, or a single guy in a wheelchair with a saxophone, tapping out My Favorite Things, waking sleepy commuters.
And there's a woman who sleeps in a box that's woven together with bits of plastic bags. She always comes out when I'm locking up at the stand, the same time each day, and rolls a small red shopping cart out of her home before collapsing the cardboard to the ground.
Sometimes she wakes up another homeless guy stretched out a few feet away. "It's already six-thirty," she says, gently. They sit together, backs to the glass of a shut-down store, until the quarter-to-seven bell rings at the white church with red windows across G street.