The first time you stay up past midnight is a weird feeling. When you are young, lateness has a magic to it; you know something will happen when the clock hits midnight. You wait anxiously, excited and horrified as to what you might find out. The first exploratory steps into the unknown.
I like to think about how thoroughly destroyed that feeling is as I sit, watching a parking lot at 3 AM for the sixth night in a week. My tongue is burned from 7-11 coffee and my eyes are sinking into my head. But, I’m wearing the smile from my uniform. Waiting to return cars to those unfortunate enough to be at the hospital now. Waiting to ask these poor sufferers if I provided ‘excellent’ customer service. They don’t like to answer.
When I’m sitting here three hours past midnight, my dozing partner slumped against the wall, I like to reflect on how I got to this stage in my life. Working the graveyard shift while living with my parents in my early twenties. There’s a name for what I am. A crude insult, but one that lasts with me: loser. I wasn’t always a loser; or rather I did not always feel like a loser. There was a time that I aspired to be someone great. I planned to attend college, like any good suburbanite child and after, in some small way, change the world. I graduated high school and the next fall attended American University in Washington D.C. I was on my way to my American dream.
I was going to get up at 6 AM every day. Study, read, write, go to the gym, be the most productive version of myself. 6 AM turned into 8 AM and 8 AM turned into 11 AM. Where I was able to coast in high school, subsisting on hastily typed, none-proofread essays and Wikipedia would not cut it there. At first, I blamed my roommate for my failures. He was even less well
adjusted to college than I was. He had some personal and family issues that made his first year tough and frightening for everyone around him. The first few times I awoke to sobbing at 1 AM I tried to sympathize and help him out. That did not last. I would pretend to be asleep while quietly seething.
His story improved since then. In contrast to mine. He began to get up earlier and do better in school. His relationships with his parents and his personal issues improved. I got up later every semester and did worse. Eventually I existed parallel to the sun. Midnight was no longer the witching hour, no longer seeped in mystique. It was ordinary like any other hour. It was my hour. But, when the clock did hit midnight that was the end for me. I packed my bags and headed home after three semesters. When I started my descent in to failure, I was almost fascinated in how far I could fail. Plumbing depths, I never thought I would fall to. Watching the clock count later and later…
That’s how I ended up at Norwalk Hospital as a valet sleeping on the job. I woke up the next day at 6 AM. I had slept through my shift. No one cared. No one even noticed. I had to go back to school, so I did. I now go to a community college and do well. It does not matter that I felt like a loser for all those months. I know that I want what I do to matter someone, even if just a little.