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3:23 a.m.

It’s only a night if you end up on the balcony of an Elizabethan-style mansion, freezing in a black skirt and a thin button-down. Your sweater’s tied carelessly around your waist, but you don’t want to put it on. You’ve spent an hour in a muggy mass of bodies and you need to feel the cold air. Your face burns. The wind soothes it like an ice pack. You look up and notice the stars—dozens of them, lined up to gleam down at you. They wink, like they know the things you talk about to your friend on the phone. He’s here with you now. He takes a drag.

“Doesn’t it feel like tonight will go on forever?”

It does. But your voice is too hoarse to reply. The cold seeps into your skin—it’s getting to you now. You cross your arms tightly.

It’s 3:23 a.m. when you make it back to your dorm. The morning comes eventually and you wake up disoriented, your eyes smudged black like a raccoon’s.

The night had ended, as nights do. But millions of little things take you back—the first sharp intake of air when you burst out of a building in winter, the moon and stars arranged like an art gallery. No, the night wasn’t truly over. In fact, you’re not entirely sure when it began.

It was already taking place months before, when you found yourself sitting in the laundry room at two in the morning, your hair disheveled and a secret on your mouth. Your heart stumbling through the world laid out bare before you.

It was still going on, weeks after you stood on that balcony. You held your friends’ hands and ran across the deserted road, your face lit-up by the street lamps and your scratchy laughter ringing out in the night.

Every time your legs are numb from dancing to music that hurts your ears; every time the December cold clashes with your overheated body—that night is there, and so are the gleaming stars. They’re in the text you were waiting to get, the floor of the friend’s room you crash in, the shoes you bought just to get dirty.

The universe has it wrong. No time was ever attached to that night.

“Doesn’t it feel like tonight will go on forever?”

It does. Your voice will always be too hoarse to reply.