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  • When you're young, it's all about nights. My grandparents had a house in West Stockbridge, in Massachusetts about 2 and a half hours from Hastings (although my dad and I made it in 2:07 when I was about 15, something we only told my mother about years after). My sister and I hated having to spend every weekend there - our friends were home, it was so far from the city, I couldn't sneak cigarettes and it was the middle of the woods so I was scared if I threw a butt I'd start a forest fire. But the plus side was we got to stay up late, as late as we wanted, which never ended up happening because we’d always pass out from the exhaustion of swimming in the pool in the sun, and running in the woods. I

    On New Year's Eve, we would always have an orange party. My parents would take us to the Food Emporium to buy orange soda and Cheez-Doodles. That was the orange extent of the Orange Party. We'd also get a disgusting amount of sour patch kids and gummy worms. If my dad didn't work, or had a gig in the city that ended early, he'd drive to Bleecker Street and pick up a couple of pies from John's Pizza. Wed stay up late, watching Nickelodeon, and then movies we’d rented. We chose movies in the most diplomatic way possible, by writing the films we liked on pieces of paper and putting them in a tissue box. By high school, we had our eyes open looking for “Almost Famous” or “Igby Goes Down”.

    The Metro North from Hastings to Grand Central used to be five dollars on way, and you used to be able to pay the conductor in cash inside the train. He would give you a piece of thin paper with all the stops printed in different boxes, from Grand Central all the way up to Poughkeepsie, a place that even today seems impossible far away, farther than Paris or Pamplona, and punch four holes with his conductor hole puncher: Two in the Hastings on Hudson box, and two in the Grand Central box. We had to take the 11:20 train home; it was the slowest local in the world and rolled into Hastings at midnight. We’d get to the station around eleven, usually laden with something exciting like a coffee from Zarro’s, earrings from St. Marks Place. The first pair of city earrings I bought was with Hannah, and we’d gone downtown after school one Friday to see the band of a kid I had a crush on play in the East Village. They were younger than we were, but the venue had alcohol and was 21 and over. This was a time when I was still intimidated by bouncers, and people larger than me, so we didn’t make it in. The earrings were circles, this light plastic, with the center cut out, and striped black and white, very mod. I can’t remember the outfit but I’m sure it was extravagant and embarrassing. There was probably fur and a light yellow polo shirt involved. Converses. Something with a hole in it, or eight. I didn’t start wearing sunglasses until I moved to Paris in 2006, and I stopped wearing watches from ninth grade until the Fall of 2011.

    Sleepover parties, microwave popcorn, truth or dare, sneaking upstairs, saying who you liked to a group of girls, not knowing who you could trust because only two were your really best friends, the other ones were best friends with each other. Now we post barely-shrouded status updates so the person we like is more than aware, but before all this, secrets existed, and they were fun and made you giggle and want to vomit at the same time. 

    At some point, nights become evil and endless, and sleep is for mornings and mid afternoons. At some point, the orange party becomes the white party. Who hasn’t been to the white party, where everyone’s words are spinning like a record on double time, chanting methodically and incomprehensibly about why the fact that they had a babysitter on a given night one Saturday on February years ago was inexplicably distressing and how this may have been the reason that they acted out in class, and never quite felt connected to their family, and how even though they’re on the right track and getting As in all their classes except for the Geology lab which is gonna run their GPA into the group with the B- it’s not their fault, the teacher doesn’t let them use cell phone but hers rings all the time, and even though she has a new baby you can’t set double standards, those white parties where tables are caked with coke and you don’t even know what you’re snorting but it’s about the act, the forming of lines, the shaping, the selection of the perfect bill from the wallet, and the rolling of the bill into a tube, “it’s not like rolling a blunt, see, you gotta make it tighter because you don’t want it to breathe,” the ritualistic induction of newbies, the braggadocio of the seasoned partier.  

    You wanted to stay late to live more, and yet the more you stay up the less you remember. A fire escape over 25th Street, and I realize that many things have happened to me in Third Avenue. If I ever get hit by a car, it’ll probably be on Third Avenue. I wonder if it’s because I was born in Lenox Hill Hospital, which is between Third and Lexington, but that’s obviously asinine. If anything, it’s because nothing’s going to happen on Park or Lex, because that’s where the 6 train lets out, but I’m too impatient of an individual to wait more than a couple of Avenues for a dramatic moment. Mike’s Pizza, a bar called the Hairy Monk across the street, and there we all were living through entire nights. I have a couple of scars on the back of my left hand that are a result of nights. Of staying up and feeling like death, but a non-graspable death, a death that is more about anxiety than physical pain. Mushy brains and the heart that won’t quit, as fast as you thought you could talk, your heart can go faster, and it’s whirring like a blender that you can’t find the button to turn off. 

    Will you ever have a sleepover party again? Is this something to regret? I never had people sleep at my house because there were no rugs, and the couch was disgusting because the dog was getting older and couldn’t control her bladder or her bowels. I have sat on the memory of shit more times than I care to count. There were nights, those nights of impenetrable idiocy, where we definitely came close to shitting our pants, doing a line inside the dorm, the house, the apartment, the wherever, going to smoke a cigarette and it hits you, it all turns to acid and you clench, you freak, you pray to the elevator spirit of love that the damn Otis machine is at the ground floor when you run inside because there’s no way you can get up five flights of stairs to a bathroom, and there’s always too many people coming in and out of the one in the lobby.

    Another memory of a vague place: Taking acid, and then the train to Brooklyn. There were no trails because it was only half a tab, but they were double tabs, whatever that meant, so it should have done something. At that point, they might have regulated me. We went to a typical apartment and drank typical beers and I had a typical conversation about all the shit I’d taken - there was Ritalin, I remember, I was high, drunk, acid had been eaten- and then it’s a blackout. I wonder where I slept. I wonder what my voice sounded like. I probably wore jeans because it was winter, I remember that, but I don’t even care because it’s probably the least relevant thing that ever happened.

    You realize, as you’re making the Asian lady behind the bulletproof glass at the 137th Street liquor store void out the five dollar flask of bourbon in favor of the two dollar bottle of vodka that you seem to be getting poorer with every year that passes. Maybe it’s not a lack of funds, you choose to think, but rather a waning interest in imbibing that which society claims to be superior. The dirty Ketel One martinis of four summers ago replaced by kitchen sink swill favored by alcoholics. A flashback to Professor A. in Eastern Religions, Fall 2007: “It is not that you mustn’t drink vodka, but you must only buy the worst kind without a label and drink to get DRUNK so that you don’t become covetous.” He was the kind of professor with a Facebook group dedicated to him, as you’d easily imagine. 

    Nights are when people can ignore what everyone is thinking. Nights are when people can be drunk, and they love to be drunk because they hate being themselves. Night should be cancelled. Nights are times for shame. But nights are when people say I love you, and I hate you, and I want to be together for never or ever, and This is when Confessions are Made, when Things are Capitalized because they have Utmost Importance. 

    But this was why New York got boring. Because substances lack just that, and bridges freeze before roadways, but if bridges are roads, then everything can technically crumble at the same time and leave you just as clueless as before. Imagine basing your entire youth on the fact that bridges freeze before roadways. Imagine deciding when you were ten that everything was boring that happened north of a given point on a non-tropical island, and then imagine learning when you were nineteen that you’d been wrong. So you departed, and decided that everywhere was better, and that there was no such thing as New York, and after having enough life-changing late night conversations under multilingual star-streaked blackness, you still know nothing. At twenty seven, you’re still dumb enough to think that smoking makes you look cool; despite all the weed you’ve smoked, you still get the munchies that a disgusting, First World way, so when a one-hitter is extracted, you abstain. You’re still titillated by lascivious looks across bars, and every time you have a beer in your system you have to remind yourself that you’re not single. You still have those hot pulsing fingers when you’re just the right drunk that you happen to know are invincible. Make yourself visible. Talk.

    So we go around, and down, and in true throwback style drink in open containers on the downtown one. On the Upper West Side of all places, below Columbia and it’s bitter outside, a night that’ll seem warm in a month but is evil in early November. You don’t want to say anything trite so you do a shot; at least, that’s what the receipt hugging your debit card the next morning says. The fact is, while you’ve always loved the drama of goodbyes, the subtleness of hellos has always seemed pointless, like putting on foundation before the dark, glitter eyeshadow you favor these days. But then it’s smudgable, and lasts just a few hours, whereas a barely noticeable foundation, if properly applied, will last many times longer. The memory of a proper introduction will linger in your memory forever, the attention to detail, taking time for formalities in a non-formal time, someone holding the door for you, and also the person behind you. You all realize that despite the constant searching for something grand, there’s no such thing as grandiosity. Words become sentences, and sentences stories, and the forms of individuals become people who you now, at least somewhat, know. 

    Bodies leave, yet their importance lingers. No one person lives harder than the next, though maybe the translations aren’t always perfect so it seems that way. A Wednesday can be just as good as a Friday. 

    I wonder if I will ever have another orange party, another balcony. Another time that makes me so terrified. I wonder if the times have become boring, and I understand why people tell you to go skinny dipping when you’re young. Skinny dip forever, and don’t go to sleep before midnight. Your body will recover but your mind and spirit cannot, and going to sleep before the digits are single again is a terrible idea, and the quickest way to a fast death. A death of a steel heart and a shit diamond. Unless you ran a marathon, or worked a double, or had sex. You can do whatever you want if you’ve had sex because you’re bound to be happy, and if you’ve had sex and are not happy then you should stay up until one or three or even five in the morning and think about it for a long time. You should use smaller words, and less of them, or more of them, and bigger words when necessary, but not to be an asshole and only when the come out naturally. If you know them intimately they will come out naturally, so you should stay up until one or three or five reading them so they become innate. Then you’ll have balconies at any age. 
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