I should have known something was wrong when the school newspaper meetings were moved from 7:30 p.m. on Mondays to 3 a.m. Tuesday mornings. But, I assumed it was just normal college behavior and went on with my day. I was beginning to get suspicious when I was asked to read six of Hemmingway’s best novels in one night. I could do it; I’d just have to stay up all night reading. Besides, it takes more than a few classic novels to stop ME. But the night they wouldn’t let me go home… that’s when I knew. That’s when I knew that I was part of some bizarre conspiracy to measure the effects of long term sleep depravation on short young men with glasses.
So there I was at Denny’s. Our waitress promptly handed us our menus. I probably should have known there was something wrong when I saw she was wearing a black suit and sunglasses, but I was concentrating on the ice cream I was about to order. I opted for the Oreo Blender Blast, in hopes that the caffeine in the chocolate would keep me awake long enough to finish the conversation I was having.
“Sure,” I replied.
“And top secret government tracking drug for the sleep depravation in short guys with glasses experiment?”
“What?!” I exclaimed. This last topping had me slightly worried.
“It tastes like gummi bears.”
“Well…okay then.” I watched as the waitress sprinkled a strange green substance in my glass. Then she walked away cautiously and stared at us from behind a column. I was having doubts about eating the ice cream now. Perhaps “secret government tracking drug” was some sort of cute name Denny’s used for a perfectly mundane topping, much like how McDonald’s has their the happy meals. But then again, “secret government tracking drug” is just a little less inciting than “happy meal.” I was beginning to figure it all out; I know it sounds too weird to be true, but everything becomes so clear when you haven’t slept for 67 hours straight and you’ve taken to rubbing salt in your eyes just to stay awake. I decided that I wasn’t going to eat the ice cream, no matter what.
It was delicious.
Later on, I dropped Meg off back at her dorm. Pulling out of the college, I figured that if I hurried, I’d make it home by midnight, and I’d have the whole night to study. I’d lose some sleep, but I could just make it up later when I didn’t have as much homework. But as I was about to turn onto my exit, all I saw were those silly orange traffic cones blocking it, and suspicious looking men in back suits and neon orange safety vests. They were all wearing sunglasses at night, so they’d done an awful job of blocking the exit, but I still couldn’t get on the highway.
“It’s all right,” I said. “The highway might be closed, but I’ll just take the back roads.”
“No you won’t,” said one of the men who was suddenly standing next to my car.
“Why not?” I inquired, more than a little freaked out that there was a big scary man hovering over me in the dark.
“Because it’s not just the highway that’s closed, it’s the entire county.” With that, I began to cry.
And that’s when I knew. That’s when I knew they were doing it all on purpose. But no time to worry about that, I had to get back to the college and see if I couldn’t stow away in a friend’s dorm for the night.
A half hour later, I found myself in a dorm, my eyelids screaming for me to shut them already. “I guess I’ll be sleeping in your roommate’s bed tonight,” I said.
“No, she’s coming back eventually. You’ll be sleeping at the bottom of my bed.”
“Oh, well that doesn’t sound so bad,” I replied.
“…with all the other people who got stuck when they closed the county.”
The door flew open and in marched more than 20 short guys with glasses. I stared at them as they came in; they all had bags under their eyes and looked as if they hadn’t rested in weeks. Most of us had figured it out by then; I know it sounds too weird to be true, but everything becomes so clear when you haven’t slept for 133 hours straight and you’ve taken to setting your hair on fire just to stay awake.
“At least I’m safe here with you,” I said to my friend.
“Of course you are,” she replied. “Now you relax and I’ll bring you a nice jug of black coffee to help you get to sleep.”
“But wait a minute! Doesn’t coffee keep you…?!”
“Exactly,” she said, putting on her dark glasses.
“How could you?” I yelled.
“They promised me a room in Wonka Hall.”
A single highly-caffeinated tear rolled slowly down my cheek.