file under: school, all-nighters

I'd already pulled an "all-nighter" or two last semester, but this was going to be different. I sat down and made a list of everything that had to get done by Tuesday afternoon, and figured I could just finish it all in time.

Provided I didn't sleep. I mean really — not a wink.

The first day, the hard realities are just theory — the deadline is still abstract and you're not in a rush. You laugh, you're at ease, you work slowly — as if extra time can be delivered on demand at some point, like a pizza. You stay calm.

And later you will regret it, deeply.

But for now, one day turns into the next, and you don't notice too much out of the ordinary. You've got a job to do, and the weight of the requirements begins to tug accordingly.

At forty-eight hours, it's the hardest — the clock has decided who's the rodent in the wheel and you're not running fast enough. You fret, you're going to collapse, and…you don't quit. It's weird. You keep thinking, "I really have to shut down, any minute," and you're going to, just as soon as you have the second page up and running. Though after that, oh shit, ink the press up for the third, before stopping, and then it's…

The third day. You're under the rainbow and the spotlight of the Divine Tragic Absurd shines its black light everywhere and helps you grow like a mushroom. You sharpen a pencil and it's just the saddest thing since the Creation. You verge on weeping — in silent isolation — for five minutes. Then the point snaps against your work top and it puts you into fits of hysteria. Wipe your eyes and proceed. You foolishly take a break and emerge to street level, and you're seeing it for the first time because you realize everyone acts as if they have no idea you've been awake for over seventy-two hours, but they've known all along and can barely contain their horror and admiration. You are fortified and ashamed.

So alone.

After ninety-six hours, it's not a pencil anymore, it's a yellow pointypointy that makes marks for you when you give it brain signals and frankly it's bored and wants a life of its own. Can you blame it? Of course you can. Someone made it. How did they get the hard blackyblack in there? Was it Space Beings? The pointypointy drops yellow to the floor. The floor is fifty feet down. You'll drown if you go after it. No more pointypointy. A pen, yes, get a pen. Yes. It would feel clean and good in your hand, if your fingers weren't numb. No blackyblack in it. Bluesygoo.

How'd bluesygoo get in there?

Then your mother bursts through the door in a giant silver wig and a see-thru muumuu, carrying the biggest beach ball you've ever seen. It's decorated to look like the world and she just keeps bouncing it and bouncing it, singing, "Una paloma blanca…"

"Stop that," you say, and she vanishes.

Must have dozed. Back to work…

The most cruelly ironic thing about all of it is that your faculties deplete inversely to the rate you need them most. One small slip spells doom. As your project nears completion, it is becoming more coherent and realized while you are deteriorating.

Eyes barely open. Awake. For a week — the feeling gone from your hands. You are working. Have to get it done.

Too tired to sleep, to care, to fear. Let the professors do their worst. Beat me to death and save me the trouble.

I'd just say I've failed. I've only, ever, failed.


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