For a long time, you stayed out as late as you could. You saw peace as a bore, mindfulness as a joke, self-care as a piece of satire. You burrowed through bars with shiny black walls, seeking bartenders who you pretended were not paid to give you attention.
On lost nights like these, you enjoyed rambling conversations with people who seemed haunted and intriguing. You shuffled out for cigarette interludes on forlorn patios, near furniture burnt and battered. You were enamored of strangers recently freed from broken relationships. They seemed primed to promise their freshest, rarest hours—or whatever was left of them—to you and you alone. Maybe you could love each other truly, you thought, even if you didn’t dare share your last names.
You did your best to enjoy this ritual in the city night because it seemed like a grand adventure. So amusingly Byronic. Unbeknownst to you, your belly was staging a silent coup and your busy mind was flagging. One more neon sign. Another dismal Sazerac. And suddenly you’re telling the same 10 stories, revisiting the same sites of intrigue and madness in your mostly forgotten childhood.
It occurs to you that you’ve become a cliché. You crawl inside the intonations of each anecdote as it spills from your lips, and the rhythms are horridly familiar. There’s a raw, new panic in your heart as you address the next laconic stranger. Fleabags making eyes at one another; you want to make magic happen, but you’ve been here before, and this night will never be like the old days, whatever the hell those were.
One fine way out is honesty. And the prize is calm. You can gnash at the truth as long as you like, you can bury it under bourbon, but sooner or later you’ll see the black walls of the bar climbing far away from you. You’ll feel the heat of a stranger’s lips as numbing, not invigorating. The city night is happy to encourage self-indulgence, but only when you set the glass down, when you find someone that actually wants to get you, will you quell the growing panic.
There is nothing wrong with sleep, you’ll discover. Nothing concerning about waking up alone in a room that doesn’t spin the familiar way it used to. There may be 11 kinds of loneliness or there might be even more. But there are more forms of joy out there, and the best ones don’t have caveats linked to crashing and burning.
Stand outside on a star-filled night, fueled by zero chemicals. Try it once. See how warmly it fits. You might find yourself in awe when it doesn’t ask a thing from you.