The nerds and know-it-alls over at Free Dictionary define the small hours as: “the early hours after midnight,” “the hours immediately after midnight, the wee hours,” and “midnight or 1 a.m. to dawn, when the numbered hours are ‘small.'” These definitions got me to wondering what’s the difference between the small hours and the witching hour, so I had to go and look up that one too:
The witching hour or hours, according to the geeks over at Wikipedia, is “….between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m., corresponding with a 3 a.m. peak…” So more or less, basically the same thing.
The first time I ever heard of the term, “the small hours,” was a cover song that Metallica did on their Garage Days Rerevisited E.P. back in the day. The song has a weird sounding, yet fairly cool intro. Look it up on the interwebs sometime, or if you’re like me, bust out your old cassette player and pop it in and give it a listen.
Why am I going on about the small hours? Because I’ve always considered the small hours to be between 2 and 4 am, when the majority of people are asleep. When I first heard of the term small hours, I was 18 or 19. The internet wasn’t around yet, at least not like it is now. Cell phones were luxury items, and pagers were just becoming a thing. The majority of the jobs in the area where I lived were not 24/7 operations. People actually slept. And if you were a young hellion like me, that was the hours when I was usually up and on the prowl.
I miss those days of being able to walk the streets and not see a single car, except for one, which was the cop on patrol, and so you went into the shadows to avoid detection. I miss knowing that for the most part, I was the only one awake at those hours. The world seemed smaller and yet bigger because of this. Maybe you’ll understand this, maybe not. I miss summer at 3 am, when the heat of the day is long gone, but it’s still warm and you walk in black socks or barefoot to stifle the sounds of your feet. There’s a ninja move for you right there. Black socks or barefoot or go home.
One of my most poignant memories of the small hours was sleeping in bed with my girlfriend at that time, being deep asleep and then feeling her foot brush mine under the covers as she moved and changed position. It woke me slightly, just barely enough to register that she was there and that she had moved. I remember stroking her foot and ankle with my foot and almost drifting completely back to sleep, until her foot started playing “footsie” with mine. She wasn’t awake either, that not awake, not deeply asleep state. Her foot sliding up and down my calf and my shin, and before we both knew it, it was on. Cue sexy 70’s porno music.
And when we had finished, I remember looking with blurry vision at the clock. It was 3:45 am. The small hours. Nobody else had been awake at that time. Hell, both of us had barely been awake. After the sex was over, we didn’t even bother getting out of bed. We just wrapped ourselves into each other and went back to sleep. Not a slow drift either. More like dropping straight into a coma from a cliff. Neither one of us had said a word to the other while our bodies were intertwined, I think we barely opened our eyes during that moment.
Nowadays, nobody sleeps anymore. There are people up at all hours of the day. If I was to go out prowling the neighborhood like I did when I was younger, I would not only be dodging multiple cars, but people wandering around as well. I could do it, my stealth skills are still on point, but I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to have to dodge cops, drunks, and other assorted weirdos if I don’t have to. I want to be able to walk down the middle of the road, and feel like I’m the only living person on the planet.
In my younger days, I could be awake at 2 or 3 am and not hear a single car going by. Just the breeze rustling the leaves in the trees. Last night I could hear neighbors coming and going. Where the fuck are people coming from and going to on a Sunday night/Monday morning? Seriously people, don’t you have jobs? Don’t you have to be up to go to work? But that is the point, today a lot of jobs are 24/7 and flex scheduling and all of that.
The small hours have gotten even smaller. The small hours have lost their potency.
I want to climb up on my roof and stare at the city lights from afar. Then I want to lie back and look at the stars. The only thing that is missing is you. I need you to come with me and be a witness to it all. Witness the small hours with me and by our sharing it, maybe expand those hours again and bring back their potency. It would almost be perfect. Just gotta get rid of that asshole driving his car.