The joke belongs to contested time, those few hours past dawn
When you’ve been out all night in the service of fun, the dawn hours are contested time. Is tomorrow already today? Is the morning really last night? I was reminded of the temporal quandary not long ago, on a Thursday during a gleeful short break between jobs. Things had begun not long after 12:00 in the basement of a Bushwick dive that hardly merits the designation “bar.” Nothing remarkable about this night really: Friends danced, lovers groped, and people drank and drank and drank. Around 4:00 a.m., two friends and I hailed a cab that we could scant afford to take us to their house in Queens. The sky was purple by the time arrived. We sat around the kitchen counter, poured shots, shared cigarettes, and offered up the kind of honesties germane to a morning of straggling revelry. And then to bed, one of these friends and me. But not to sleep; it’s a special sort of friendship. The windows were white with dull daylight when he took his first snore. I don’t remember sleeping at all, but it was well after rush hour when I began the long train ride back to Brooklyn.
I conceded, then, that Friday had begun without me. Thursday had carried me past first sunlight and beyond even that fearful time when the city’s yawning denizens cram into thoroughfares to reach jobs and schools by 9:00, or earlier still. I had, thankfully, mostly missed the discomfort felt particularly by the leftovers of the night before as, stinking of smoke and booze, we face the suited commuters in all their glaring sobriety. Yes, everybody knows you’re wasted.
Calendars and clocks be damned; they tell us so little of that strange, unstable moment when one day ends and another begins. It’s not midnight, of course; on some nights it’s not even dawn. There’s the half-joke shared by all-night partiers when they say goodbye in the wee hours and have plans to meet again, say, the following night: “See you tomorrow, oh, I mean, see you later.” No one says that at 1:00 a.m., even though technically it would be true. The joke belongs to contested time, those few hours past dawn. The day, already begun according to vagaries of capitalist time, does not yet include you. Time zones open up along the very same lines of longitude. The same city that hurls its workers into morning harbors a dissenting, drunken few, insisting that last night go on and on. Together, they pledge a short-term commitment to a life in which there’s no tomorrow at all.