Saturday, February 4, 2012

To Sleep Perchance To Be Silenced.

It works like this sometimes, is all. You know it's coming when you crawl in. The blankets just don't feel right on your skin and that's only the beginning. Looking back, you realize you should have known it would be like this, it was just that kind of day. So, not yet resigned to the thing, you toss, you turn, you try to get comfortable. Nothing works. You check your email or Facebook for one last round: nothing of interest. You listen to a few songs that might set your mind back to rights, they don't work either.
     This isn't about the state of the world, or your life's disappointments, or lost loves. This isn't even exactly a mind that races with a too-long to-do list. It's a restlessness, and not a lot more; not yet, anyway. More tossing and turning, and was that a dirty look from your dog curled at the foot of your bed, disturbed by your fidgeting? You try reading, and it's effective, in it's own way- an hour or so passes, but even the book becomes a restraint, and you have to put it down, but still can't sleep. It is at this point you begin planning: at X time I stop trying to sleep, make coffee, and will just nap tomorrow when I feel like it. It's a saturday, thank god. So, how many hours away is that, anyway?
     You consider, if you haven't already, they day ahead of you. Having planned a trip to the museum, you are reminded of the camera on your phone. It's pictures have always been slightly-less-than-satifactory. Possibly, this has to do with the lens being dirty. It occurs to you that you could clean it, and might revitalize the quality of your snapshots. After removing the back of your phone and setting to this task, you've still got an alcohol-soaked cotton ball, and so you swipe it over the faucet: amazing. Suddenly you are reminded of the impressive cleaning powers of rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol, of course! It's so simple, you're almost ashamed- how much money do we spend on elaborate cleaning formulas, when any house hold mess is likely to  be obliterated by either rubbing alcohol or bleach? Soon,  you're wiping down not only every steel fixture in the bathroom, but your tea kettle as well. This of course reminds you to prepare coffee and breakfast for tomorrow. You may not sleep at all, or may wake up at 1pm, but won't it be nice, for a change, to have the coffee ready to brew (such a hated morning task, why don't you always prepare it the night before?) and all of your dry goods and dishes for a morning meal waiting for you on the counter? Halfway through the glass of sweet tea you've poured you stop drinking: maybe it's all this damn sugar.
     Invented chores of kitchen and bathroom behind you, you return to bed. By now of course the dog has given up on you completely, and is asleep on your dirty clothes, contented that you won't be bothering him there. Of course you're no closer to falling asleep now than you'd been before. So you get back up and return to the kitchen for a snack. It's not that you're hungry, necessarily, but what the hell? It's something to do. Cold pizza, cookies: none of it satisfies.
     Having neither the fatigue to sleep nor the motivation to leave, you're trapped in a limbo of pacing and muttering. Bed, kitchen, bathroom mirror, front porch. The circuit seems to be rapidly shrinking, and these rooms, like the book: again, something restraining you. At 3am, alone, miserable, everything is a straight jacket. Your mind has of course wandered idly this entire time, the inner monologue by no means silent. While your hands might be busy with the wonders of isopropanol or which bowl to use for the french toast you probably won't make anyway, your mind's been traipsing all over the place with a gaiety which is swiftly dwindling. Maybe it is the sugar, because, like a child not long after a rich snack, your outlook is crashing. What was once a boring monotony you were simply waiting to reach the end of, is twisting into an almost Lovecraftian night-horror. You're revisited by the old phobia that your body is actually comatose on a hospital bed, as family members keep a sad vigil while inwardly, your consciousness is leading this invented life of quiet desperation. To combat this, you begin the tedious inventory of bills and responsibilities and calendar events. The devil is in the details, but at this hour, one shouldn't think too hard at what that saying could mean. The possibilities are endless and macabre when the whole world's asleep. And at some point in this list of things on your radar, you stumble upon a real problem, an honest-to-god frustration, and it hits you with a clarity and effervescence which you're certain will be with you during the saner hours. You hammer out a quick text to the related parties, and think, well now I've gotten something done. Now I can sleep. 
     But, no, of course you can't. Discovering a problem is such a minuscule step towards solving one it's almost shameful you'd felt accomplished. It's not like you'll sit and chew on this one for the scant remainder of the night, either. That would almost be better, because what does happen is the worst yet: this puzzle, this frustration, leads your mind to descend into the white noise of a barely articulable "What have I missed?" that simply buzzes at the edge of your thinking, resolving nothing, but not keeping silent, either. It's an unattached worry, a gnawing with no throat to swallow, like the drumming of fingers or a factory you can hear and whose light pollution you see, but what is manufactured there you're utterly clueless of.
     The record you put on isn't helping either, because while Roberta Flack seemed like such a good idea (and largely, was) her version of Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne'- hell, any version, for that matter- is not a good idea. There's almost a pride, though, in knowing it. You know you haven't completely given up yet as you dash over to silence the record. This is uncomfortable, yes, but it's not about anything, let's not MAKE IT about anything. This, then, if for no other reason, is why you listen to classical music, and have for years jealously kept it as your own. The world can have all the songwriters it chooses, no stunning line or verse is without it's tagalong sling or arrow. But Dvorak, Brahms, Chopin- they're all yours. Another glass of too-sweet-but-screw-it tea, and you settle into a comfy chair with 'The New World Symphony', or something equally stirring and probably out of place in these soft, gentle hours.
     The music lets your mind wander now in a satisfying, fantastical way. Is it a kind of bargaining, you wonder, as you tell yourself: "If I could rest on a bed of pine needles, I'd be out light like a light, I'd sleep like a fat, stupid baby."? This is what you needed. This is the escape a book or movie couldn't give you. Any narrative is too flush with it's author's voice to be of comfort while the world is asleep; you're looking for a ticket out of your head, not a traveling companion. But an artist who surrenders his clarity of voice to bolster the sharpness of simple, inarticulate expression...Well, then you're just being shoved out the door before putting your coat on. But this is exactly what you needed.
     At some point, you wake up, and it's daylight. You're not sure when you moved from the chair to the bed. You're only glad you did not dream.

And had the sense to prepare coffee.