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Thursday, June 05, 2003  

Dreaming of Sleep

Two nights ago, I did something I haven’t done very many times in my life. I should warn you that it’s not as exciting as I just made it sound. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just about the least exciting thing one can do. What I did that was so unaccustomed was this: I lay in bed at 2:30 in the morning staring with wide-open eyes through the dark at the ceiling.

I’ve never had much of a problem with insomnia. I could sleep fifteen hours a day if I could manage it schedule-wise, and every once in a while I get sick just so I can. I actually need the full eight hours of sleep, although I’ll sometimes make do with seven hours and fifty-nine minutes on weeknights and then catch up during the weekend. With my internal carburetor set the way it is, I generally don’t have a hard time getting to sleep minutes after my head hits the pillow. My consciousness generally shuts down in the time it takes my computer to boot up. Trash claims that on some late nights, I’ve actually fallen asleep midsentence. When I was the one speaking.

So when the bedside lamp goes out, typically sometime between eleven and midnight, that tends to be a wrap for me until the following morning. So no, I’ve never had a problem with insomnia before. On the other hand, until last year I’d never had any allergies, and those damn near killed me last month. I dread what sleep deprivation might be doing to me at this time next year. If I fund myself having psychotic episodes, or falling asleep while driving, or chasing Robin Williams over floating logs in Alaska, I’m going to be rather cross.

I finally drifted off to dreamland (if your definition of “drifted” includes “struggled uphill and upwind while wearing an eighty-pound backpack and shoes that are tied together”) around three-ish, taking solace in the knowledge that because I was only getting four hours of sleep that night, the only problem the next night—which we now call last night—would be staying awake until bedtime. Well, I was half right. Last night will now be known as Night Two Of Whatever Infernal Experiment Satan’s Minions Are Conducting In Order To Turn Me Into A Gabbling Zombie.

I came up with that name today, by the way, because all I could think last night after 2:00 a.m. was “still awake…not asleep yet…slightly too warm…slightly too cool now…room dark…ceiling needs paint….”

Trash and I don’t know what’s going on. But it’s affecting her, too. Normally that’s not a big deal. First of all, she doesn’t need as much sleep as I do, so she doesn’t get the pent-up demand that I experience. And secondly, she sucks at going to sleep under normal circumstances, probably because her mind goes so fast all the time that letting it wind down takes about as long as bringing a fully-laden oil tanker to a stop without using reverse. Many are the nights when she’ll turn off her lamp at 2:00 a.m., tell me goodnight (to which I may rouse myself enough to respond with some heartfelt sentiment like “don’t forget the electric pants turnips”), and awaken refreshed the following morning.

But she’s been fighting a summer cold the past few days, and she goes to bed around ten, her blood spiked with over-the-counter remedies in a quantity and variety sufficient to not only bring down a bull moose, but clear its sinuses and render its urine flammable. And yet even then she’s as awake as I am three hours later. I start to develop this theory about our circadian rhythms still being thrown off by spending a week someplace where it’s five hours earlier, even though we didn’t feel the effects until now. A sort of jetlaglag, if you will.

So last night, it gets to be around two a.m., and we’ve both spent alternating intervals turning on our lamps and reading, turning off our lamps and lying as still as we possibly can, turning the lamps back on, doing some married-people stuff, turning the lamps back off, doing some more married-people stuff, turning just one lamp on so one of us can read while the other one thrashes around like a pro wrestler with a blowfish in his pants, swapping places, going downstairs and peeing, sharing cold medicine, going downstairs and peeing cold medicine, et cetera. Finally, both lights are off, it’s dark in the room, and there’s this whump next to my side of the bed as the lamp falls off the table. A feline cry of pure hatred and desperation pierces the darkness. And then so do a couple more. I tell the cats to stop fighting—or at least stop fighting RIGHT NEXT TO MY HEAD, and I try to illustrate my point by waving my arm in the general direction of the ruckus, but the racket continues. Trash turns on her light and we see that in the process of jumping from one table to another, Orca has somehow entangled herself in the lamp cord. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, except that the lamp has fallen in such a way as to span the gap Orca just tried to leap, which in turn has left her hanging in midair below it like a large, angry fly in a web. She seems to be concentrating on dying as loudly as possible; whether it’s from strangulation, electrocution, or pure pissed-offedness is not entirely clear. Strat wanders up, wondering what’s going on, or perhaps just to punctuate how incorrect my interpretation of events really was. I quickly free Orca and she streaks away as if we’ve tried to set her ablaze. We make sure she’s not injured, and her panic subsides, but I think she’s got a while to go before she forgives us for setting that trap for her.

So maybe that’s the reason we didn’t fall asleep until late last night. Maybe we were meant to stay awake so we’d be able to save our cat’s life when she needed us in the wee hours. It’s as if we suffered some relatively minor inconvenience last night, never understanding the vital reasons for it, until something truly upsetting happened to put it all in perspective and make the meaning clear.

And that meaning is this: tonight, we’re drugging the cats as well.

posted by M. Giant 3:27 PM 0 comments


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