by: Chris Thompson
From the shadows of the night an insomniac looks to the light…
“When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep, and you’re never really awake.”
Are you still awake? No? I envy you. It’s one of the seven deadly sins, Envy, and in Dante’s Purgatory the punishment for it is to have your eyes sewn shut with wire…..fuuuuck. Buddhism considerers Envy a non-virtue and on the path to the dark side but I’m already well on my way so what the hell. I envy you.
It’s a benign type of envy though so don’t be alarmed. I’ve removed all its maliciousness and bite. I aspire to use it as a positive force because you have something that I want very badly–a healthy appetite for slumber. An innate ability to fall asleep on your terms and on your schedule. You command it with a casualness that I crave and at every turn you unwittingly confront me with it.
You sit besides me on a cross-country flight, pull the window-shade down and taunt me by falling asleep the moment your seatbelt is fastened. “See you in Vegas” you say.
Or you call it an “early night” because you have a busy day tomorrow and fall asleep at 9:30pm, leaving me standing there, staring at you in the dark, trying be quiet so I don’t wake you up.
I look at you and scream inside my head “Tell me your trick!” I desire it so badly its taste is palpable on my tongue. “If I could only see past the smoke and mirrors to that little switch you tap to turn off your brain.” I implore. “Just a peek.”
To which you reply, “Oh…it’s nothing like that. I just close my eyes and I go to sleep.”
And then I die a little more inside. Because I realize there is no trick. No lever to toggle. No curtain to pull aside. You just do it. Voila´! An instant trip to La-La Land at the drop of a hat. I envy you.
I want it. Give it to me please. What is the entry fee? How do I get a ticket? Is this the line over here? It doesn’t seem too long. Blindly I stumble over, rifling through my pockets for a ticket I do not possess. So I try counting backwards. I meditate. I workout. I drink peppermint tea. And I fucking hate peppermint tea! I read books. Chapters and chapters. But it has the reverse effect. Instead of drifting off mid-sentence like you, I read on. Become criminally focused. Finish the damn book. Consider its implications. It lingers…I fucking envy you.
I listen to nature sounds too. There’s an app for that. Crickets and owls and shit. And rainstorms and streams and waves. Endless waves, crashing perpetually onto the shores of my grainy subconscious. But it just reminds me of camping and swimming and youth. And the smell of ozone after rainstorms and summers in the city. And then my brain is off again, circling in on itself and cannibalizing the trivialities of the day.
I need an app that literally puts me to sleep. Does Apple have that? Something that emits a sound or a pulse that penetrates deep into my sleep center and starts my REM cycle right the fuck up. Supercharges it. Or maybe it’s an app that produces a hypnotic screen pattern, rendering me catatonic in a retina-display orgy of HD colored light. But we’re not there…yet.
I could get it another way you know, your ability to fall asleep effortlessly. It’s easy. But what I’d be giving up would be more than I think I am willing to lose. It’s all there waiting for me, individually packaged into single-servings. Flimsy blister packs of tiny pills with safe and pleasant sounding names like Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata. But that $10 co-pay comes with strings attached. With a big fat asterisk and pages and pages of fine print to digest. Something will be lost I fear. My edges dulled. My senses lessened. My “vision” obscured.
For you see, that hour when half the world is asleep is when I do all my finest work. It’s when I channel my frustration with my circling brain into something productive. And it’s only when I’m writing or creating that I discover what I truly think. What I truly feel. Nothing I’ve ever written during those restless hours I’ve ever had to redo. In fact I’m writing this essay now while all of you are asleep, dreaming your little hearts out. And here I am wide-awake suffering from some kind of societal Jet lag. Trying to live in a world of light when I’m at my fullest potential in the dark. This is when I’m my most creative, my most honest, my most vulnerable and I’m scared to give that shit up. But I can’t keep going on like this. Someone’s got to win. Do I take the red pill or the blue? Do I join the ranks of the Morninglarks or fall back in with Nighthawks? My inner voice screams “Night people unite!” but there’s dissension in the ranks…