I used to work nights in a bar in New York until it closed at 4 am. I think of this occasionally when I wake up now at the same time. Back then it didn't feel so odd. In fact a lot of times we would go out for pizza or breakfast after, and there were enough people out and about that it didn't feel like the time that it was. But it was weird. The people who are heading home at 4 in the morning are different than the ones who are waking up at 4 in the morning. We all knew that. We knew details about each others lives that we might not have known had we worked together in a 9-5 office job, and we were linked together forever because of it, like cell-mates. I knew for example that one friend used to sit in a car without heat in Chicago in the coldest of winters, waiting for her dad to score some heroin in an abandoned building, when she was 7. I knew another guy who, during an argument with his girlfriend, threw his phone in frustration and hit their toddler square in the face. My boyfriend then was a tattoo artist who lived in Brooklyn with a tarantula. Once he walked me home to my uncle's apartment on 6th Avenue and we went up to the roof and kissed on the ledge for two hours, until it was light out.
One night a group of us went out for pizza together near St. Mark's Square. The place was packed and had hideous neon lights and mirrored walls. It was rude, but it was warm and the pizza was amazing. We took up 2 tables and were chattering and planning when a guy in an overcoat walked in and stood at our table and announced he was going to sing a song about love and acceptance. It was, he said, the most beautiful song ever written. He cleared his throat, took a dramatic pause and began singing Ebony and Ivory. There was a ruckus at first but it died down completely because the singer raised his voice and silenced us all with its power and honesty. Once he finished we were completely convinced he was the messiah or some kind of magical figure. We gave him pizza and listened to him talk about Paul McCartney who he said was the greatest philosopher of all time. His coat was full of holes and he had a few important teeth missing and was crazy as a chicken with its head on fire but he knew how to hold a room. He said if we gave him $20 he'd tell us the secret of life.
We tallied up $50 in 2 seconds flat and slapped it on the table. He picked it up, counted it, smiled the most beautiful smile in the world and then, pounding the table with his fist at each word said:
This. Is. It.