Scene: The night before my deadline, 11:30 PM.
I should be sleeping. Why am I not sleeping? I love sleep. I mean I only do it when I’m supposed to be doing something else, but that does not diminish my love. I’m going to bed. No no I can’t. I have to finish this piece this is shit I am shit everything is shit.
I am a professional Later. I am Forever Late, and it isn’t out of disrespect for anyone’s time. I’ve read that article, too, all of them all of the articles I know, and it’s a dick move I pull consistently throughout my life until it’s one giant dick in perpetual motion. I am responsible for all of the dick movements in time. I’m sorry. But the thing is, it isn’t you. It’s me and my mismanagement of time. I just can’t seem to--
Goddammit. Ok ok ok. I mean, I’d be up right now anyway. This is when the good stuff happens. If you’re in your twenties or a sociopath, all the good party stuff happens late. When mistakes happen. When shit gets good. Or, for a regular human, when you can watch whatever you want cause everyone else was asleep as soon as they heard the Taxi theme song. So -
Fuckstick. Focus. Come on, focus. I gotta be up with a five year old in the morning.
Whom I had late, by the way. I had my daughter late, and I was made to believe that was a bad thing. Like, if I had just ignored the fact that I was living in payday loan cycles while chain smoking and waiting tables in my twenties, it would have been a great time to give birth. Sure, my early thirties were spent understanding what communication and validation are, but babies don’t need that until they’re like 12 or whatever so I should have just spat one out from one of those fumbly pretend-it’s-good one night stands, right? NO. Late means I’m physically older but emotionally prepared for when she melts down and can hold and comfort and teach her. 25 year old me woulda been all, “you think YOU have problems? I can’t pay this phone bill!”
If you die and you’re revered, you are the Late Great. Great is even implied when you say, “late.” No one quotes the Early James Joyce that’s weird no one does that don’t do that. Belated, even. It’s so ok to be late that they made us a prettier word to use if we wanna dress up for it. Happy Belated Birthday! “Oh thank you that’s just as good as the regular kind. In fact, this feels like I was forgotten about and then remembered by someone special. With a monocle.”
Sure, I’ll make coffee. You know I failed more than one college course by being late with a paper? One of them cost me my degree. Who messes up a BFA? Me. I do. Once, I was early to work and people dropped shit on the ground and couldn’t take the shock.
Because fuck early. Late is for terrible delicious food choices you’d never make by the light of day - tell me you ordered a chicken fried steak during regular breakfast hours and I will call you a liar. Late is for lovers and their darkened alleyway trysts; for one more that turns into three more, for raiding the fridge, for getting your child when they cry out because you’re the only one who can make it better, for talks that you meant to have at a decent hour but they just didn’t come up and here you are when you should be in bed, finally laying old grudges to rest as the hours move into closing time. Late is for scandalous clothes and dance floors and secrets you weren’t supposed to know. How else are you gonna find out how many people think you’ve died in a ditch if you don’t make them worry? Also, PSA: no one actually dies in a ditch. We’re all just late. LATE. It’s magical, it’s forbidden, it’s sexy, it’s wrong, and it’s perfect. “I should go, it’s late,” is a beautiful way to start a conversation.
I’ve forgotten how sleep works. It’s fine. Maybe I’ll try whiskey?
My husband and I have made each other late for 15 years. The most vital conversations, the heart wrenching, honest, naked, keep-your-voice-down-we’re-discussing-the-certainty-of-our-marital-and-financial-future-and-our-daughter-might-hear conversations happen when one of us is supposed to be getting out the door. He’s not up now, in the wee small hours, because he works two jobs six days a week and crashed out trying to play a video game to unwind after helping people recover from drug and alcohol addictions all day. I’m up because I perform in places with a bar. We make each other late because these talks need to happen, and I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to let a silly construct like time get in the way of the man I love. We could find a better time to talk, but it hasn’t been invented yet.
Being late perpetually means I can problem solve on the fly. It means I know every alternate route and possible CTA/Lyft combination to get to my destination. It means I am intrigued by things, usually shiny ones, and it means I am an optimist. Think of how remarkable that is, considering the flaming heap of whatthefuckery we live on. I am hopeful that I can change time’s linear structure. Which means, I AM A TIME LORD. BOW DOWN, NERDS.
ALL NIGHTER, You know superheroes don’t get up early, right? They work under the cover of darkness. That means late. You don’t see Batman movies and think, “man, sure is bright out.” Superheroes need masks and dark corners because you don’t best baddies over brunch. Also? Brunch is late breakfast with booze. Which means it’s better. I can’t believe I have to spell that out.
Look, you show up late to the party, you’re arriving. You show up early to the party, you’re awkwardly expecting me to entertain you while asking if you can help because I am still setting up while applying eyeliner and that’s just weird, Larry. Why are you here?
It is after 3am now.
I’m half delirious. It’s moved from late to early in the morning, which means it’s time for me to sleep. This piece will still be abhorrently late, which means I will still be on brand. Forever running to catch up. Forever being ok with it because I know all of your secrets. You can be mad and stay mad, but I’ve sat with you in diners and on couches and you’ve spilled your guts and told me what everyone’s problem is in the late late hours. You’ll forget because you can’t seem to handle your whiskey mixed with your minutes and hours. I’ll remember every word, because late is when I shine. Am I blackmailing you? Now? At the end of this thing? Better late than never.