I’m sorry I’ve been hard to reach lately. I’m having what you might call a dark night of the soul.

In fact I’m having it this Saturday, and I really want this DNOTS — feel free to hashtag that — to be special, so I’ve had to do a lot of extra planning. Remember how I forgot to charge my phone before last year’s DNOTS, so when I tried to call my ex at 2 AM from the bathroom in O’Houlihan’s and threaten to kill myself in a really passive-aggressive way, the phone was already dead? That was unfortunate, so this year I’m bringing my charger with me, just in case. Better safe than sorry on a dark night of the soul.

I also bought a pair of New Balance since they’re supposed to be good for aimless walking devoid of all hope. (The guy at Payless didn’t say that, but I could see it in his eyes.) I’m sure I could’ve found cooler shoes if I’d looked around online, but I’d rather search my soul on a DNOTS than search for uncomfortable hipster sneakers on Zappos the week before. Are Converse low-tops still considered cool? I used to love those shoes, but the arch support was a joke. It’s not that I don’t expect pain and suffering on a dark night of the soul, but not the kind that puts blisters on my pinkie toes.

I’ve already made myself a reminder to drink plenty of water this time. Last DNOTS I was pretty dehydrated by the end, which was fine in a metaphorical sense if you subscribe to the notion that life is an endless desert on a dark night of the soul, but I get dizzy and have to sit down when I’m dehydrated. And sitting on a park bench at 3 AM isn’t ideal if you don’t want one random guy after another trying to sell you weed or asking if you’re selling weed.

All in all I’ve been really happy with my weight lately (follow my Fitbit updates on Facebook!), so this DNOTS I’m only going to drink light beer, and I’m only going to drink it at dive bars in good neighborhoods since the dive bars in the bad neighborhoods tend to have lower prices. That way I’ll be sure to drink less, especially since I’ll only be bringing $40 in cash. However, I reserve the right to use an ATM in a bad neighborhood, especially if it’s one of those really old ones with just green text on a black background. Bonus points if it’s at the back of a liquor store.

Stark black-and-white imagery is a must if you want to have the best dark night of the soul ever. (photo credit: Anders Eriksson, flickr.com/photos/andereri)

I want to be smarter about social media this DNOTS. Last year when I posted some really soulful selfies on Instagram I got maybe four hearts, total, plus one comment from a guy I knew in college: “Blue Steel!” Yeah, thanks, Spencer. Just click the heart and move on, like I did when your mom passed away. (Guys who comment without ever hearting or liking or retweeting have never had a DNOTS. I guarantee it.)

I probably should’ve waited until morning to post those pictures, when traffic would’ve been higher, but I guess I hoped I’d catch some 4 AM empathy. Lesson learned. This DNOTS I’ll either post at midnight or wait until ten, and I’ll add a caption like “#DNOTS2016 So lonely.”

I’ve also been thinking about starting a Tumblr to show off all my previous dark nights of the soul, and if I knew how to make a GIF that could condense last year’s DNOTS into a three-second movie montage (e.g., me staring at an empty shot glass, me staring at a river from a bridge over the river, me staring at a homeless guy and him staring back at me because we get each other), I totally would. Seen any good how-to videos? Let me know in the comments section of my DNOTS 2015 recap on YouTube. Thanks!

It’s really hard to remember what dark nights of the soul were like before the Internet came along. I wrote a poem about my first one when I was 15, but my school’s literary magazine wouldn’t publish it — it went right over the editor’s head. Honestly, I think he was always a little jealous that I had my first DNOTS before he did.

I’m just glad there are fewer gatekeepers now. Because when you’re drowning in a sea of existential angst, why wouldn’t you want the entire world to share that experience with you?

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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