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  • I've always been fascinated with the night. If you've ever pulled an all-nighter, you're familiar with how long it actually is when you sit through the entire vast expanse of the night. The first time I did this, I remember from all those years ago, I came away thinking "all that time should really be put to use." Not to mention that almost nobody is awake, which makes life seem infinitely simpler. The characters in the story are all asleep, the stage is mysteriously empty. The following situations were originally recorded for my own benefit, to aid my disastrously inefficient memory. They're the kind of experiences that are tightly welded to their own emotional memory section of my mind, so that the actual events which took place don't so much make them interesting as did my mindset at the time, and so this third-party explanation of them may not seem particularly interesting at all. If you were part of them or take anything out of them, I invite you to read on, but they may not seem very meaningful unless you were there.

    The first time I can remember doing this intentionally was with two older friends of mine at Camp Yawgoog six or seven years ago, where we decided to sleep in the unexpectedly beautiful shelter we had built earlier in the week way back in the woods, instead of the monstrous green burlap tents that seemed to loom over us in the night like massive gargoyles. This experience will always retain a kind of mysticism about it, because everything blended together so strangely in my young mind. It rained the entire night, yet with a shelter composed entirely of branches and found planks of wood and bark resting on a lonely fallen tree, insulated by nothing more than a few leaves here and there, we didn't get even slightly wet, which was pretty trippy to begin with. The entire night was backed by the sound of Bob Marley on John's cheap handheld cassette recorder, as well as some other things he had brought with him, such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and some dreamy-sounding tape he had found in his room a few months earlier called Floyd the Ghost, or Floyd's Ghost, or something like that. We didn't do very much except talk and listen, and occasionally throw rocks outside the shelter when John jokingly insisted someone was stalking us. The night seemed to stretch on for days and days on end, but somehow, even though we had very little to entertain us or "keep us occupied", we never got bored or tired. We talked philosophy, we talked politics, we talked weather, we talked complete nonsense. Mostly we listened to the rain, with Marley wailing in the background.

    Champlin campground, the following year, around 3:30 am, and we decide we want to walk over to the field, just to walk around because we can. What do we see when the thick canopy of trees ends as we near the field? The sky is a brilliant, blood red. I will never forget this, and I still can't quite believe the explanation that was later suggested to us, of air pollution from providence. The sky seemed like it was on fire, cancerous, was ready to explode in a massive dripping bloody fireball, and John related this to a poem he had written earlier that month called Today is Red. Everything seemed to be hopping around when we weren't looking, and we were having the time of our lives with the tape recorder and talking nonsense until we heard the disturbingly close howl of a wolf. He speculated it may have been a big dog, and not so close at all, but all the same we jogged not very slowly back to our tents.

    A year or two later I wound up at somebody else's house again for a sleepover, I can't remember exactly whose, as I didn't have many friends at all and I didn't know these people very well. Looking back on it, it becomes more clear to me than ever before what a strange, lonely, and unexplainably strange childhood I had. All I can remember is that I was there. We got up after a while spent watching TV and old movies--most of which I was seeing for the very first time because they contained violence or drug use that my mother didn't want me seeing--and walked out the door and down the road. We walked on the yellow line, and that meant something to me for some reason. It was like the corpse of some historic map, or the corpse of some old man continually pointing us down the road with an unwavering hand, archaic finger forever extended in a winding, crumbling, wandering line. We walked around in the cemetary, which obviously had a vibe all by itself by the time midnight rolled around. We threw darts at a dartboard we couldn't really see, and several times I stuck the dart in the wood trim of the wall on which it was propped. Several sticks of incense were lit, and as the clean blue light from the television shone through the smoke everything suddenly seemed extremely three-dimensional, as if everything were becoming extruded from itself. And along with the smell of the incense, everything still had that unreal sense about it, as if nobody was quite sure if one of us was just dreaming this all up, but we took it in good faith that that wasn't the case. And of course, we cooked eggs, sunny side up, at about four in the morning, with strong black coffee. Even if it was one of the worst-tasting breakfasts of my life, it was still one of the best.

    Just this past year, my scout troop went to Maine for a canoe trip on the Saco River. One night, our canoes beached on a sandy bar of shore, our tents set up on a little dune overlooking the bend in the river we had stopped at, the rest of the troop (mostly younger by this time, this was nearing the end of my scouting career). Me and Chris Nota were discussing everything we could think of in our tents in the middle of the night, just as I had with John in that shelter so many years ago. From abortion to the interwebs to theoretical physics to philosophy, just about every conceivable topic got discussed, and neither of us wanted to sleep. We were just about to settle down for the night, at about 2 AM, when we both got out of the tent to take a leak. When we returned to the tent, we didn't get inside. I stood there next to him, staring across the still, perfectly white sand and into the slowly meandering river as it absentmindedly dawdled and danced by, and everything started to seem three-dimensional again. The beautifully haunting sounds of the woods at night, the nocturnal creatures and the various noises made by the trees as they rustled and creaked in the cold river wind, they seemed to repeat on a regular interval, and I asked him if it didn't sound to him like a looping soundtrack. I hypothesized (not very seriously) that normally, the world is set up for us by an outside force each day, and tonight they were trying to hide their construction work, as the sky began to look quite flat and close to us, as if it were a fairly small stretch of watercolor-painted paper stretched above our heads, and as the cold breeze plodded on, it began to seem like a poorly produced, low-budget movie. Everything was so static, we decided we had to do something to break the icy monotony of this false-looking night. We took a pail--one single nondescript pail--and moved it a few hundred feet down the beach to see if it would still be there in the morning, and if it was, if anyone would notice. It was. This tiny, meaningless string between that strange night and the crushing two-dimensional reality of the next morning reminded me vividly of a still-wet painting, with all black on one side and all white on the other, and taking a brush and making a big ugly smear across the middle of it, though nobody else could see it. And one other night that very same campout, at 2 am or so, I followed up this action by eating a few oreos from our locked patrol bin, simply because some stubborn and irrational construct in some corner of my mind said it couldn't be done, because Oreos originated in the bland, harsh reality of the daytime world, and this deep, liquid three-dimensional nighttime wasn't part of the same plane of reality, and the other side of my mind wanted to challenge this pre-conceived notion of what the night was. To prove myself wrong about something I didn't even care about. It was quite possibly the best oreo I've ever eaten.
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