Nights Like Days – (A First-Quarter Life Crisis)

Dim corners, dark strangers and one or two drinks too many; some nights you find that you’ve passed the point of no return.

On The Town | Cristina Rotaru | July / August 2011

Long and tenebrous are the hours you chase after your potential. Much like anticipating dawn from between the shielded four walls of an afterhours bar on Schönbrunner Strasse; overcrowded and suspicious, you turn yourself in to whatever comes your way, secretly hoping that this time maybe it won’t be a Jägerbomb. Just like the venue itself, tonight you have no name, no past, no memory of how on earth you got there. Among urban clustered chic and piled up virtual money, conversations in full speed fueled by comforting liquid become increasingly loud and before you even realize it, you’re portioning out promises to move to Patagonia and grow cacti with your new best-friend-for-the-night whose name you can’t even remember.

"Where were you from again, Greece?"

"Sure, ok." Close enough.

The next thing you know you’re handing out lies like they were Bling on sale, stolen and not yours to give, but precious nevertheless and all the more breakable. And in between these lies, some scattered truths that you would normally never spit out were it not for the nurturing bosom of this remote dark room, to which you solemnly swear never to return, and the reassuring eye of the Irishman behind the counter, pledging to make everything better. Something about not having a home, or some other randomly posed inconveniences generated by a broken one. But you’re still safe. After all, it’s only small secrets that need keeping; the big ones will quickly be dismissed by people’s incredulity.

"Oh my God! You don’t have a home? I don’t have a home! We should totally…", conveniently interrupted by a pair of long legs carrying their half dozed off upper half towards the ladies’ room only moments before the collapse.

"You see this girl?" someone asks. I nod, and my eyes follow her as she stumbles by. A typical Viennese princess, anywhere from age 14 to 25, smelling like patchouli, Paris and permission. "I hate her. I don’t know her, never seen her before in my life. But I hate her. She’s everything that’s wrong with the world today. With her Gucci bag and her cheap Sarah Jessica Parker pretensions…All they know is how to consume. Seriously, if I could punch her right in the…"

It’s getting slightly too vocal for me and I fortunately manage to slip out of the conversation before anyone notices. It’s a good thing that a sophist’s audience is interchangeable – I could have easily replaced myself with a broom and the monologue would have continued uninterrupted. Whatever. I don’t care about what’s wrong with the world today. I just want to make it through the night.

Maybe it’s just my luck, or maybe it’s an underwritten part of the game, but it’s precisely when you decide that, just this once, you will not take part in the grotesque performances that go on in such places, when just this once, you manage to evade eternal  impression management, that someone actually blows your cover and pulls you out for a breath of air.

"I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here." It’s only when that voice becomes a face and then immediately afterwards, regardless of your intentions, an extension of your thoughts, that you can bring yourself to respond. "Me either."

From there the road is paved with everything but yellow bricks. As with all disclosures, soon you will start building your own camouflage, and this time it will almost certainly involve expectations.  Transported back to a time when it was socially acceptable to remain utterly silent among a group of grown-ups, I realize that right now, as then, I have absolutely nothing interesting, witty or twisted, to add.

So I make it up. Ironically, from the moment you start balling, the game has nowhere to go but the finish line. I don’t know why people are at their best when they don’t care, and frankly, I don’t care. And by the way, they’re called adults now.

An unexpected yet predictable occurrence derails my train of thought that surely "no one ever thought before" and hastens the coming of the new day. Here’s a girl who probably left home earlier that night after a family dinner with a promise that she had finished homework and would be in bed by 4 – but now lays face down flat on the ground for all eyes to devour.

Two or three of her friends are worried senseless and slap her cheeks in dismay; another takes a sip of beer and is considerate enough to take an extra-large step when walking over her across to the other side of the room, where the brave are still dancing. The rest are like me. Doing nothing.

"An overdose," someone says. Then a knowing, "Don’t touch her until the ambulance gets here" conflicts with a more zealous, "You have to give her warm sugary water, it will wake her up." These days, everyone’s an expert.

Soon the music stops and artificial lights cast dream formations adrift as you begin to see the faces of the people you spilled your innermost anxieties over. They don’t look anything like you imagined them. With the right kind of ears, you can almost hear the sound of bubbles bursting.

What was once the flaunting parade of frenzy now turns into a solemn procession. There’s a certain loneliness to this moment, still and ceremonial, and you suddenly feel as if it’s been there forever.

One by one, we pick up our things head towards the door. By now the sun shines bright and for the many veterans among us, it’s the perfect excuse to pull out the shades and postpone reality for another hour. Because it’s not tomorrow until you’ve slept.

We walk away as strangers, wondering what we’ll become, waiting for a rollover of our nights into days.

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