4:57 / by laurel

4:57am. The clock blinked back at me, unflinchingly. A sort of stillness had settled on the house that only occurs in the no-man’s-land predawn hours. It only occurs when you’re sober, I reminded myself as I slid across the floor, hunkering down at the sink and downing two glasses of water, one after the other.

There were two stars before. Two of every star, twinkling in the hazy blue-black Alta Loma sky. I remember laying, feeling incredibly heavy, incredibly enraptured with gravity and all its magical forces, and observing the sky. “It’s not fully blue, and not fully black…but it’s both. Equal parts of both.”

“Yeah…” was all Winn would reply, the sort of obligatory response that could care and care less. He took a drag of a cigarette. “I vowed to stop smoking the other day. I came up here, broke all my cigarettes in half. You got any tape?”

“Tape?”

A light flickered and burned into the sky. “Never mind, it works alright.” He took a drag, long and slow.

“I didn’t inhale before, I just held it in my mouth.” I remember saying. I reclined against the pavement, feeling nothing but the two-star phenomenon in front of me.

He thrust his broken cigarette at me. “Inhale. I won’t laugh if you cough.”

So I invited the smoke into my lungs, probably the only unaffected part of me. I could feel the toxins in my system, burning, swirling, turning and releasing. I didn’t cough.

“I don’t feel anything.”

I felt everything. I felt the weight of gravity and the unbearable lightness of nothingness; I felt two stars and two skies and two curling smoke stacks within my lungs. The city skyline flickered indifferently. I remember making observations, but not as myself. I was a specter outside of myself, musing at this and that, not feeling gravity, not feeling the woozy, freewheeling, freefalling double-earth that I washed down with another sip of Port. From Portugal, I stated when I bought it. I didn’t even get carded.

Now I was its muse, or perhaps its victim, but either way, I was floating outside of myself, leaning into oblivion. Winn poured himself another glass as I waxed poetic and flung my arm back, knocking the wine glass I’d purchased earlier that day onto the pavement. I could hear the glass breaking, recovering against the tire of my car.

“Did it break?” Winn was chewing a candy bar. Hershey with almonds.

I said nothing, instead hurling the broken glass into the big city night, glinting into the atmosphere, shards of glass piercing the dusty earth. I took another drag of his broken cigarette. “Here’s to not smoking.” I squinted into the sky. “I can see Sagittarius, but barely…” my voice trailed off. For the first time, I didn’t care. The constellations yawned and continued in their path down the horizon. They didn’t care, either.

For the first time, I felt fully human. Fully alive. And fully inebriated. It didn’t matter that the details smeared into one another or that it was going to be a restless night. The only thing that mattered was broken glass, broken cigarettes, broken constellations.

And now the only thing that mattered was that glass of water. From the sink I gazed into the backyard. There was the impossible stillness again. I was the antithesis of it, unable to sleep. But there it was, all the same, coaxing me back to bed where I would soon blend into the unmoving scenery. I suppose I should acquiesce, but for some reason, devouring the stillness instead seems like a more viable option. Still outside of myself, but in a different way. Still making those observations, but only in my head. Still feeling that cigarette smoke in my lungs, but only in memory.