Thus, it is three a.m.
It is three a.m. The glass in my hand is empty. I am neither drunk nor awake, sober nor exhausted; merely a place in between that defies explanation. It is three a.m., and the glass in my hand—filled only once—is now empty. I slept somewhere between one and two hours the previous night, and followed it up today by somewhere around sixteen straight hours of work at the convention.I am exhausted; the brutal floating exhaustion that leadens feet, shortens calf muscles, and makes my lower back ache. I know from looking in mirrors that my eyes appear unseeing, holding themselves open only by habit. My walk holds the shuffle of the sleepwalker. Don't ask me how long I've been awake. I don't have that many fingers.
Ask yourself where you are. Maybe you know. Maybe you don't. With the absolute certainty that comes from a mind too exhausted to reason adequately, I know where I am. This is the balcony; this is the ninth floor of the hotel, and I am looking down on what has been one of the best days of my life. In the back of my mind, the litany of reasonable thought unspools, unwinds, comes loose: get sleep—get rest—why did I take all that caffeine last night?—where are my friends?—is my spouse asleep?—is he having fun too?—shouldn't I start thinking in complete sentences again?
It is a long way down, my mind says; the screaming-banshee noise of the cartoonishly-bedecked conventioneers is a distant, dull roar. There is a light-saber fight. There is a battalion of Klingons staring at a battle of storm troopers not too far from a cluster of medieval musicians.
Here, I am the freak—the girl dressed in nothing but jean shorts and a simple t-shirt, with only two fake locks of smurf-blue hair clipped at my temples and an empty cup smelling of apple pie. I realize that I am light-headed from leaning over the balcony, and lean back and throw away my cup. Somewhere, anywhere. If it wasn't a trash bin, someone will take care of it in the morning.
The semicircular elevators are made mostly of glass; their speed, combined with the radiant alcoholic fumes given off by guests, make me dizzy on the way down to the main floor. The floors flash by, barred balconies and fake hanging greenery and conventioneers clutching plastic cups in varying stages of emptiness passing above my field of vision.
By day two of the convention the jaded attendees have conjured up a blank stare. The perfect blank stare confers a blankness, an invisibility, upon the giver. In this freakshow-née-convention, the easiest way to be noticed is to stare openly at the garishly (and often inventively un-)dressed attendees. If you do not at least seem to notice, no one notices you.
Thus, it is three a.m. I am pacing the main lobby of the hotel, slowly, deliberately, trying to stretch my calves and stare without staring. I remind myself that for twenty thousand people, this is probably their one weekend a year to act up, act out their fantasies, and be someone other than the normal bill-paying drudges their lives dictate they must be.
I found a chair at the bar and watched, quietly, sipping water, fingers aching for the familiar pressure of keyboard and blank page. The words begged for recitation, phrases floating in and out of my mind as I repeated them in a desperate attempt to commit them to memory. My hope was for something, anything, to stick long enough for me to get home and get it written down.
The process of remembering is slow.