If you have any chance of success (which you don’t) then you need to stock up on food. Put all your ambition and energy into buying enough high fructose corn syrup to keep you going for the night. Gummy bears, whatever gimmick Oreo is out this month, kettle chips, wavy chips, Pringles. You need to start putting away junk food like you change back into a vending machine at midnight. You need to somehow enjoy two types of Mountain Dew Kickstart and an intravenous coffee supply. And you need a theme song, a jam. Something embarrassing that reminds you of the power you once had when you were younger.
12am: Feel So Good
Ride the momentary high of actually accomplishing work. “I can do this,” you’ll say in complete naiveté, “this will work!” You don’t know it yet, but this will be the most productive moment of the night. So enjoy the last few minutes of typing madly before the shit hits the fan. There are eight hours until daylight.
1am: Move Around
Falsely blame your slowing progress on something irrelevant like “sitting too long.” Stand up and stretch and when that doesn’t work, pace around the room like a dog looking for a place to poop. And when that doesn’t work sit back at your computer and sigh. In five minutes, stand up again.
2am: Delusion and Reward
Convince yourself that you’ve done a lot of work (you haven’t) and that you deserve a break (you don’t.) Lean back in your chair. Tell yourself that it’s totally cool to close your eyes for, like, one second. “Because,” you say out loud, “people close their eyes all the time and nothing bad happens.” And in your inability to differentiate blinking from sleeping, nod off.
3am: Self Punishment
Imagine that your fists belong to Manny Pacquiao and your face belongs to you. Slap yourself. Hard. Go two rounds. It will be like a whip-it in reverse: instead of a fleeting moment of confusion, you will feel awake. And instead of gripping a whip cream canister, you’re only able to hold onto the dying glimpse of your hopeless night.
4am: Panicked Desperation Binge
Feel how close failure is, how it creeps inches behind. One false move and you’ll lose everything. Rip through the remaining bits of your food. Destroy your Zebra Cakes, eat four Starbursts a minute. Chug a Monster, a bottle of Starbucks, a Red Bull. When that doesn’t open your eyes, increase the volume of your jam. Put it on repeat until your ears sting. And when the words, the joyous chorus, the droning baseline that you loved so much don’t even register, panic. Everything you hoarded to defend against the cold grip of sleep does nothing. The fire is out and your matches are wet. You are alone.
[Unfocused gaze at computer screen]
6am: Large Scale Regret
Get your 82nd wind upon realizing that this could have all been avoided if, for once in your life, you acted like an adult. The immediate rush of guilt energizes you. How long will this go on? Will you ever grow up and stop procrastinating? You were a loser, you tell yourself, and you’ll always be a loser. Embrace your suffering. This is what you deserve.
7am: Advanced Movements
Much like the U.S. military circa 2003, realize that you’ve made a huge mistake, but that it’s too late to turn back. Research some Abu Ghraib levels of sleep deprivation. Place feet in cold water. Find a vicious dog. Pause your Spotify playlist and waterboard yourself. Convince yourself that these are isolated incidents. There are no other options. The physical you must pay the price for the mental you. Claim you’ll do anything for victory, but stop short at the rectal feeding.
8am: Fall Asleep
He had a yellow inflatable tube around his waist, the kind with a comical duck head. There was a tiny fish in one of his hands, and a trident in the other. In the background a squirrel wearing shades was water skiing.
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