3 A.M. Eternal

“What time is it?”

“Does it really matter?”

“Guess not… “

*

The world is tonight; a cascade of lights and sound. 

This is the world we’ve both been yearning for all week.

Of course, there’s always tomorrow: Chronic hangovers, one more impossible deadline for a new assignment, the ever-growing pile of laundry, and a fridge that hasn’t learned to fill itself.

But tomorrow is another world.

*

Lin is scouting the dance floor again… is she looking for someone or just for a good time to plunge herself in?

Suddenly I get my answer:

“He’s playing it now! YesyesYES!!”

“Who?”

“Max – “

“Max who?”

“The DJ, you idiot.”

“Lin – are you personal with every DJ in downtown?”

“Not as personal as you’d like to imagine.”

“Hawhaw – when am I going to get you to get me another one of these blue ones? They’re goody.”

“Shut up and listen -“

“What am I listening to – oh -“

“Yees. Don’t you remember?”

“Seriously, acid house wasn’t that hot in Hebridean villages – even in the early 90s.”

“Why can’t you talk nice about the place you grew up  for a change? It’s sure as hell better to have grown up in the beautiful highlands than in the ghost house of an asshole IT-millionaire and his bitch wife.”

“In the ‘beautiful highlands’ it piss-rains 200 days a year, and I’ve met your mother and she may be a bit awkward, like mine, but she’s definitely not a bitch – and you actually said so the other day. And you told me to remind you that you said so, if you ever began bitching about her being a bitch again.”

“I … did?”

“Yup. Just the other day.”

“Okay, okay. I’m just drunk. I’m drunk – don’t listen to what I’m saying.”

“I’m not.”

“Fuck it then – come on.”

“You bet.”

We plunge ourselves in.

I don’t remember how long we’re on the dance floor.

It doesn’t matter.

*

In the night, time is different.

During the day, you’re used to time rushing by, carrying you with it, towards the next deadline, the next meeting, the next time the laundry is open, the next –

Time is something that fights you.

But during the night, you meet time again in a way that should always have been. In fact, there is no meeting at all:

In the night, time is you.

Because of this change of pace you can sit down and just ‘be’ and time is you because it is with you – not against you. It is going nowhere without you. You can watch people go by and feel you don’t have to go after them. You can get a cab to a view point, and then walk all the way back while the lights of the city accompany you. And someone else, of course.

However, there is a condition for time to ‘be you’ – and not against you – during the night:

You must not be alone.

If you are alone … time tends to freeze. Around you.

And you wish so much it would thaw … but it doesn’t. It just keeps you frozen while you wish for morning, for someone you know or care for (or at least said ‘hi’ to – in passing – a summer’s afternoon on campus) – that they’d notice you.

And come over to you.

I’ve had a lot of those nights. Fighting time, just as I do during the day.

But tonight, time is me.

*

We just said goodbye to Nadine – and Alan – and Mark – and – (I-don’t-remember-the-last- girl’s-name-but-she-was-with-Mark). I look at my watch and wonder how it’s possible to live a life time in a few hours.

They came in shortly after Lin and I had delivered ourselves to dance floor Nirvana. We were so beat, literally, that we seriously thought about calling it a night at 1 am.

But there’s no reason to call it a night when the night’s not finished calling you.

So we waved at them, we hugged, we talked, we didn’t hear what was said because we were still in the torrents … but it didn’t matter. All of us bought more drinks.

But even when time is you, there is an ending.

*

Lin and I are standing at the corner of the main street. The others have just gone away in a cab. We’re going in the opposite direction.

(By the way, I’m feeling a little queasy. Not sure if it was that last drink or if it was drink number five before that. As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to – )

“Carrie – ! “

“I’m awright … “

“Sure you are. Oh my … I’d better just call a cab. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else coming by now.”

“Call one with puke-detergent on the backseat, okay?”

“Oh, funnee.”  She pulls up her mobile phone. (Still wish I could afford one of those things.)

“Hello? Yes, we’re standing here at -“

Lin’s voice drowns in the traffic of the main street. Or is that – where are we anyway?

Suddenly everything is spinning.

“Carrie!”

“It’s okay – I -“

“Shut up. Let me – no, on the second thought. Just keep your ass on the pavement until the cab comes. I don’t know if I can hold you, if you fall again.”

“Pity that Alan went home with Nadine,” I blurt. “I would’ve – I would’ve liked him to hold m-“

“Oh shut up. You’ve had a crush on him for a million years now. When are you going to do something about it? Certainly not now with puke all over your nice red dress that you just shelled out for, what – 200 bucks you don’t have -?”

“Hey, we can’t all be rich… “

The second I say it, I know I shouldn’t have. But it’s too late. Lin’s eyes become darker than the night.

“I gave that money away. You know that. There’s nothing left of my inheritance. So there’s nothing left of fucking Adeline Christakis and her fucked up family. It’s just Lin. Now. And I’m goddamn no more ‘stinking rich’ than you. Now.”

“I didn’t say ‘stinking’ rich’… “

“Aaarh… ” she crosses her arms, turns away.

In the worst possible direction: From me.

*

You see, there is a third mode of night time that I didn’t tell you about because I was so busy expounding on the two other modes:

The third is, of course, the time of hell.

That’s when your stomach is struggling to come out through your throat and your head’s stuck between a hammer and an anvil.

And that’s not even the worst. The worst is that hell-time always fucks up your thinking.

And if you are with a friend, who’d be more than interested in helping you if you behaved normally, well, then you just say something crappy to that friend – as if that was perfectly normal, too.

Because that’s what you do in hell-time:

You destroy what matters most to you.

And hope that it can be mended, even if you don’t deserve it.

*

” … I think I’m gonna throw up again… “

“No matter. I’ll just stand over here.”

“Please, Lin, I didn’t mean what I said. You know that… “

“You’ve always been jealous of me, Carrie, haven’t you? Despite all the shit I’ve been through. Despite all the fucking evidence that having all that dough that drowned my parents is NOTHING you’d ever want to have.”

“Come on… “

“So … looks like the cab is gonna be a bit later than I thought… ” Lin notes, a bit too satisfied.

“I don’t feel too good … “I croak.

“Well, I’m not going to get all puked on to help you up again. Just sit on your ass until that damn cab comes.”

“Lin, I didn’t mean it – okay?!”

“You did.”

“I didn’t think about what I was saying. I’m drunk, okay -?”

She doesn’t turn back towards me when she says it. She is standing with her back to me, there at the corner, arms still tightly crossed, her Goth-black knee-length dress looking more than ever as if it’s part of her skin.

“If it’s just because you are drunk, Carrie… why do I keep hearing it? A little remark here and there… Some days I wonder why the hell I didn’t just rent that apartment on my own!”

I don’t answer. I’m busy throwing up again. But when I’m finished something else is burning in me:

“Maybe you can just have that apartment then – if you don’t trust me anymore than to take seriously some shit I’m saying when drunk and my stomach’s gonna go Alien on me any moment… “

“Don’t give me that.”

“Give you what? You want to be offended, don’t you? You haven’t let go of that inheritance at all. You keep thinking you have to … do something – whatever the hell it is – to be ‘normal’ – whatever the hell that is. Well, look around – we’re not in Cleveland anymore. We’re not in Cuyahoga High anymore. We’re in college – starting over, Lin!”

Now she turns towards me – but her arms are still crossed:

“Are we really starting over, Carrie – What does that term include? Does it include that you see me ‘starting over’? Do you really see me as just Lin now – and no one else?”

Yes, dammit …”

And that’s when I throw up for a third time. I didn’t think there was any more in my stomach. I was wrong.

“I … really… really think I’m ill … ” I manage to stammer, after I’ve dried the last puke of my mouth. Suddenly the night feels colder. And the cars that go by, indifferently, their lights are cold, too.

Lin’s mouth begins to twitch a little.

“You think we should go to the emergency ward instead …?”

“Not sure if… my insurance -“

“Fuck the insurance. We’ll deal with that. There’s the cab. Where do you want to go?”

“Home. I’m all right. I just need to sleep it out.”

“If this is about money … maybe I still have – “

No. Let’s go home.”

*

The lights of the city stream past us outside the cab window. My stomach cramps have subsided a little. I may survive the night yet.

I wonder what time is now. I can’t feel it anymore.

“We should’ve gone to the ward,” Lin says quietly. She is huddled up in one corner of the backseat, arms still crossed as if somebody had glued them to her.

“You… gave me a hint,” I mumble from my own refugee, also known as the other corner of backseat, where I’ve curled up in semi-fetus.

“What hint…?”

“You hinted that you still had some money.”

“Of course I’ve got money.”

“More than that.”

“I hinted no such thing.”

“You did. You hinted that if something was wrong with me that wasn’t covered by my insurance then you could … pay for it.”

“You’re kidding yourself.”

“Good, ‘cause I wouldn’t have wanted you to anyway.”

“Then what would you have wanted? To die of alcohol-poisoning in an alley somewhere?”

” … I’ve already died.”

“What the hell is that kinda talk about?”

“Never mind. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’ve died.”

“Serves you right.”

“Did you really save something – of the inheritance? Do you have a secret bank account in the Caymans somewhere?”

“Shut up, Carrie!”

I wish we were there soon – and then again: I wish not. Because, you know, we’re both going to go up the same stairs and in through the same door. Only relief is that once inside we do have separate doors and I’m going to close mine real good.

The cab driver seems to be straining mightily not to smile at us two dumb young women, arguing like little girls – and me doing so with a nice splotch of puke all over my dress.

“Are we there yet?”

“Do ya want me to drive faster, miss?”

“Just get us there.”

“Dontcha worry. Dontcha worry.”

“Worry is the least of my worries right now.”

*

We’re there, finally.

For a few seconds after the cab is gone we just stand out front, looking at each other.

“Shouldn’t we go up?” I suggest meekly. “Puke’s beginning to dry up. I really want to get this dress in some water.”

Lin just sends me one last, dark look. Then she pulls the keys out of her handbag and begins to work the lock to the front door. 

I stay right down here… 

“I want to ask you something – seriously,” I call after her, without knowing where I get the courage. I must still be drunk.

“What?” Lin mumbles as she struggles with the door to the stairs.

“Let’s say you didn’t give all the inheritance to those – whatever. Purely hypothetical, of course. Let’s say I was doing badly and my insurance was worth shit. You would have paid for me, wouldn’t you?”

“You mean you want to know?” she says, focusing intently on the fight with the lock.

“Yeah… I want to know.”

Then she stops, shivers – just for sec. And I can hear something in her voice; not unlike broken glass.

“You … you really pissed me off, Carrie…You really did.”

She wipes her something away near her left eye. Finally she turns.

“C-can I make it up to you?” I stammer.

“How?”

“I… could, ah, do your essay on, whatwasit – ‘Slaughterhouse Fire’?”

Slaughterhouse-Five. Do you want me to flunk my first semester final, too? That would really piss me off.”

I shrug. Try the sheepish smile instead.

She shakes her head: “Let’s go in…”

“It got a bit late, huh?” I mutter as we step in to the familiar darkness of the stairway.

“It’s only 3 A.M.,” Lin says and begins to climb the stairs.

“It feels later. Much later.”

Second floor. Lin reaches our door first. New key-search: “Maybe it’s always going to be 3 A.M. for us, Carrie.”

“Is that good or bad?”

Lin doesn’t answer, she just turns the key. We go in. I begin to look for wash powder.

 

*

 

 

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