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4am in 2011

Everything important used to happen at 4am. The later it got, the more significant it became to hear my phone ring or to walk to 7eleven or sit in a parked car at the end of my driveway so my mom wouldn't hear the music blasting while I made out with whoever. Not that it's anything to brag about but I was really good at getting high. Literally all of my best stories used to be about how I overcame some inconvenient circumstance that I put myself in while chasing one. You know, like looking for post-breakup dorm room sex at George Mason.
The shuttle ride onto campus was always painted with all the ways Band of Horses had come to make me feel over the past months. I'd let myself feel every ounce of heartbreak Dylan had attached to hearing the words "you are the ever-living ghost of what once was" and I'd meditate on how these nights we shared now carried the weight of all the time I spent suffering away from him. I spent every night reminding myself of what I'd lost, watching videos of us fucking and reading the journal he'd left me. But it was the misery I was feeding that would lead me back to him. And although I wished he couldn't, he'd always show me how perfect he could still make me feel.
It goes without saying that I stuck around past the last shuttle to the metro and had to hit people up for a ride home. Looking back on it now, how charmed was my life that I got away with everything without ever getting a driver's license? I don't know how I got so lucky to have friends coming through for me on a level that I probably didn't deserve. Joe was the type of person to treat making his friends feel happy and supported like it was his damn job. Zero hesitation. Like, I'm not making this up, he once told me that even though he knew the difference in time that it took to walk or run to his car was negligible, he still ran to his car anytime he was going to meet a friend. My phone was almost dead so we agreed on a specific time and place to meet, which was a good 20 minute walk across campus.
I waited on a bench outside an empty, closed McDonald's until a dead battery and half a pack of cigarettes later, I decided to try my luck at getting back in the dorm building to charge my phone. The first trip back to the dorm that night was met with enough luck that I was let into the building by one of Dylan's friends, who casually offered me a hit off his joint on the way in. I know 'half a pack of cigarettes', two 20 minute walks, and getting high with someone who was writing a paper outside in the middle of the night isn't a sufficiently accurate measure of time but it was late and Joe wasn't picking up his phone. I was out of ideas and Dylan wasn't waking up, not even to play devil on my shoulder and tell me to blow off Joe's incredible act of kindness and just get back in bed with him. Which, like, I probably would have.
So I was back to indefinitely loitering outside a McDonald's at 0% battery with no way back in the dorm. Not a gamble I would've usually taken if I didn't have to show up at my chain-Italian-restaurant-at-a-mall job in the morning. Brio Tuscan Grille was shitty and one time my boss told me I wasn't allowed to go to the host stand until I bought acetone and took off my black nail polish. Unsurprisingly, my nickname was Wednesday, like Wednesday Addams. I didn't hate it because they were wrong, I hated it because it wasn't even funny or good. Aside from all the hostility, it was the perfect job to support me while I lived rent-free in my mom's basement, satisfied just being able to keep up all my vices.
The less cigarettes I had left the more I become pretty sure I wasn't getting home that night. Every time a car drove by I wasn't sure if I was supposed to feel hopeful or terrified or if I was just being paranoid from smoking. As I was approaching peak defeat, a car pulled up in front of me.
"Hey, what are you doing over there?" It was a guy's voice but it wasn't Joe.
"I'm waiting to get picked up by my friend."
"It's kind of dangerous to hang out there by yourself. Can't you call your friend?"
"Nah, my phone's been dead."
"Shit, that sucks. We're just driving back to campus if you wanna come."
It's not that I wasn't aware of the risk of getting in a car with strangers, it's that I didn't give a shit.
"Do you guys smoke weed?"
I rolled a spliff in the back seat of the car while they asked what my night had been like that I ended up stranded. As I played everything back for them, they were both at a loss as to why I got into this situation in the first place. Because I'm 18 and accidentally making eye contact with my ex as he lights a cigarette for me gets me higher than any of the many drugs I'm currently experimenting with. Just kidding, I don't know if I told them about about that. Probably just told them I had nothing better to do than party after I got off work.
Anyways, I thanked them for dropping me back off next to the dorms and probably left us all with that on-edge, heightened feeling where you realize weird shit can happen at any time. They had opted into a little vacation in what was my dumbest teenaged 4am so far and got to make a pleasant exit while I had no choice but to keep following wherever it lead me. In case you were wondering, it absolutely did not lead me back to Dylan's bed. It was somehow so late that there was nobody coming in or out of a college dorm. So I wandered aimlessly looking for an unlocked door to literally any building and made it into a common area with laundry rooms. It took a good 15 minute argument with myself before I decided it was better to feel guilty for borrowing someone's unattended sweatshirts than to be too cold to sleep on a bathroom floor after everything I'd already been through. Ugh sorry!! It sucked regardless and I don't think I got more than 20 minutes of sleep at a time from the constant fear that someone would come in and discover how gross I was. The quicker the sun rose the quicker I could leave behind my shame.
6am came with the relief that this was all almost over. As long as I made it to the shuttle and as long as my dad answered his phone in one of two times I could afford to use a phone booth, I would probably make it to work on time with the same clothes and makeup as yesterday. After a night of most things going wrong, every step in the right direction made me feel disproportionately accomplished. The shuttle took me to the metro station and I felt the pit in my stomach knowing that if the dollar and fifty cents I had in coins didn't get me on the phone with my dad, I wasn't getting any further.
"Why are you awake so early?"
Fuck yeah, got him on the first try.
"Uhh can you pick me up from West Falls Church station in 8 minutes?"
He did. And I did explain everything that had happened.
"Oh my god, Mili." he said, visibly exhausted.

I wore all the bullshit garbage I put myself through like a badge of honor the rest of the day. It fueled every conversation I had with my co-workers for the rest of the week. Apparently I'm still  talking about it 6 years later. I don't know, maybe I'm just trying to say that life was fun back then because even bad things just turned into good stories once you got through them.

Also, I finally talked to Joe, who said "Dude, I was so fucking pissed. I honestly feel better now that I know you slept in a bathroom."



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