I was very tired when I finally made my way home that day. I had gotten up early to continue cramming for the test, and then stayed two hours after for class. I’d packed a lunch as I intended to work in the library, but my bone weariness directed me home instead.
Arriving back I was tempted to collapse, but resisted with surprising firmness. There was still much more work to be done. I am unsure where my stubborn streak came from that day, but I suspect all the caffeine I had bolused my system with.
Cut to two hours later, my documents are emailed to my professor, and I promptly passed out. I wondered briefly before losing consciousness how long it would take someone to find me if I was seriously ill. I had yet to teach my cat how to call 911 after all.
Three hours later, I awaken as a comical sort of Snow White, with my sickly pale skin, brown hair darkened to black with grease, and red lipstick I’d forgotten to remove. I glance at myself in the mirror as I wash away the sleep, puff out my cheeks, smirk, and laugh maniacally. I’m not crazy, just sleep deprived. At least, so I hope.
Hurriedly I stuff a backpack with clothes, deciding I’ll steal someone else’s toothpaste once I’m in Denver. Then I meticulously clean my apartment. I have my priorities after all.
After momentary hesitation, I head out for a party at 10 pm. I’ve got time. Driving, since somehow in the course of the day I lost my train pass, I arrive much quicker than intended. And realize I have a totally reasonable reason to pass from shots with the birthday girl without causing offense. Maybe I am making better decisions subconsciously. But driving tired is the same as driving drunk they say, so the odds aren’t good.
At the party everyone is already roaring drunk, and I wonder briefly what sort of jobs everyone has to be like this on a Thursday before I join in on the fun, singing Jonas Brothers songs at the top of my voice and forming a group to eat cake together in the corner. I learn that night that the camaraderie of cake is a beautiful and strong bond that brings the most disparate strangers together.
I do talk to the birthday girl, the only non stranger at the party, before leaving. She comes over to me, embraces me, and proceeds to affirm our friendship in affectionate terms. “I love you so much, girl, and this is not slobbery drunk “I love you” but serious appreciation of you in my life “I love you”.” Her speech slurs, but the sincerity remains. I leave soon afterwards, but not without making plans to eat cake again with other party goers (very Marie Antoinette, I know).
It’s after midnight when I return, and I debate between sleep, shower, and cuddling my cat. I need to leave at 3 am after all. I choose all three options, and awake only to scramble away, returning three times to retrieve things I had forgotten.
The airport is large and black against the polluted purple sky. Lights blink here and there like comical stars on an infant’s mobile. I suddenly fear I’ve missed my flight. The shuttle to my gate is long, the line through security longer. The flight is boarding when I arrive, and I settle into my seat on the crowded plane with an aching head and sleepy eyes. I have an hour to sleep, and I should make the most of it.
Arriving in Denver, the airport is not as eclectic as I remember from childhood. Disappointed, I find a train to downtown. My ride will not be around until lunch, and at 7 am I cannot tell whether my body is more angry with hunger or fatigue. I find a bookstore, and fix both bodily states with an sandwich and Earl Grey tea. Appeased, my body submits to sitting without sleeping, and I pluck a random book off the shelf and read it cover to cover.
After finishing the novel, a noir mystery based in New York’s Chinatown, I become depressed thinking of miscarriages of justice. So I do the next most rational thing I can think of: head to a tattoo parlor.
The tattoo artist at the front desk disagrees with my tattoo plan. Wrong spot, wrong design, etc. etc. Shut up it’s my body, I scream in my head, while outwardly asking politely if he would give me his expert opinion then. I’m still going forward with my plan, when he mentions the price. That stops me. Poor graduate student that I am, I try to restrict my bad decisions to ones that don’t involve dropping a couple hundred bucks.
I walk down the street, lamenting my lack of money, stopping only to remove my socks and jacket. It’s too hot for that. Sweating and hungry once more I walk several miles before finding a cafe with pictures of David Bowie on the doors. I’m expected for lunch once my ride comes, so I buy a scone, get a glass of free! (how my cheapskate soul delights in the word!)ice water, and settle into a chair to watch tv.
Several hours later, still no one has come to claim me. So I leave the cafe, shaking crumbs from my skirt and telling myself a walk in the sunshine will keep me awake. And so it does, until the rain comes.
Dodging the rain drops like acid, for the sake of my poor computer stuffed in my knapsack, I finally get a hold of family. They are still far away, but give me the address of the hotel to meet them. Praying I will not be kicked out, my soggy form shuffles through the hotel lobby and finds a corner to curl up in. It is in this state that my niece and nephew, the darlings, find me. Running up they ask why I’m wet, and where my cat is. Picking my niece up, only to promptly put her down as I am far too tired to hold a seven year old aloft long, I say that cats dislike traveling on trains. My sister, their mother, appears at this.
I nearly collapse when they tell me that everyone has gathered and is already eating.
I sincerely believe the only thing that kept me going that thirty six hour period was my hunger.
It is still many miles before I sleep. And many days before I’m truly awake.