Without getting into it too much, the evening continued well. We joined a number of Jérôme's friends at the big bonfire; talked, drank with good, kind people. I think it was around midnight when I decided to go back to the car to sleep.
The night before, I had slept at a little campsite in Ventimiglia (that a large colony of ants were conducting a massive siege upon) and had realized after getting my tent set up that I had forgotten to bring a sleeping bag. Consequently, I slept in my suitcase, and not particularly well. So the next night, it was no mystery to me as to why I was quite tired.
Said my good-byes, got Jérôme's number, picked up a blanket at the trading post, found my way back to the car. Similarly to the prior night spent in the suitcase, the still sleeping-bag-less night in the car unsurprisingly also turned out to be one of those "impossible nights", by which I mean something very particular (and something that my flimsy new blanket failed to ameliorate).
Even those of us who normally enjoy the greatest comforts and privileges can have them: impossible nights know no class distinction. Especially in the context of travel we can quickly wind up, for example, in a missing key or fumbled reservation situation, or the kind that involves an indispensable yet unreachable someone, leaving us stranded: typical examples of slippery slopes that can lead to this most intolerable kind of night.
Fundamentally, an impossible night is a question of chemistry. When anything vital is missing or there is an incessant disturbance about, the chemical processes connected with sleep can take their precious time to kick in. Even, or especially, when we desire and would really need them to most. This disposition may be accompanied by the perpetual checking of the time (a discouraging and ultimately futile endeavor**The blatant refusal of time to pass is a sure sign of telling that the night you're having really is impossible.), a never-ending search for the more comfortable position to lie in ("JUST RELAX, GODDAMMIT!"), and the impossibility of knowing - in the common case of there being periodic surges of consciousness throughout the night - whether one had just woken up after a second's sleep, or an hour's sleep, or whether one had not yet slept at all. To spend an impossible night is to stare into the impossible face of infinity.
Imagine sharing a room with someone you don't know very well, and the window is open, and it's cold, and the blanket is too thin, and everyone in the whole world except for you is asleep because you're freezing to death but you're too polite to close the window (your host may like it that way). You would probably get at least some sleep during that night, but you're not going to know it in any case. Later on (even years later) it may feel like a part of you is still there, still waiting for that first hint of the rising sun.
Every once in a while, it's good to take a moment to appreciate not currently having to fall asleep under impossible circumstances. Because it really, really sucks.
Anyway, it was still October. Out of sheer ignorance, my assumption had been that sleeping in a car was more like sleeping indoors than sleeping outdoors (after all, I enter cars by doors): it isn't. It's the other way. The worse way (if you're inadequately equipped). Since there was no way to lie flat, even my suitcase was no help to me. So I twisted, and turned, and shivered, and cursed the sun for it obviously having forgotten how to rise.
Whether the sound had woken me up, or whether I had been lying awake at the time I don't know (see above), but after several hours (or minutes, or years) of trying to fall asleep I heard more fireworks go up. The parking lot was far away from the action, and I saw nothing, but just hearing them gave rise to the same feeling I had when Jérôme and I had seen them earlier, and I was rendered calm again.
Sure, I had buggered off to the car while the night was only getting started for seemingly everyone else, but just by being there - so it felt - I belonged there. A simple act of defiance out of a reasonable concern had created a space for what must have been over a thousand people, in which the most basic and wonderful human interaction became as possible as it ought to be in the real world; getting the opportunity to be a part of that, and for that to happen in a time where I felt like little more than a broken cog in a meaningless machine, was a great gift, and no degree of frosty discomfort during the few remaining hours before sunrise would rob it of me.
The next time I woke up, it was morning.