Thursday, February 26, 2015


The wife is overnighting in a Long Island hotel, participating in a two-day training event for her relatively new job.  Me, I’m stretched out in my own bed, satisfied at having tucked the girls in with lights out at 8:30.  I watch a bit of O’Reilly, surf the web on the iPad, and wait until 9 when I sneak out into the hallway.  The absolute silence indicates both little ones firmly in slumberland, and I continue my tip-toe downstairs.

I tidy up the kitchen and reward myself with an ice cream sandwich.  Then I head downstairs to the writing desk, shuffle papers about, watch a video or two online.  I climb back up two flights and take a hot bath, reading 20 or 25 pages of Sheen’s Life of Christ.  I get out, towel off, throw on my sweats, make the rounds of the house again, turn off all the lights, satisfy my OCD that the faucets aren’t running and the outlets aren’t burning.  Then I head upstairs to bed, reading C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra for a half-hour.

At 11:15, I switch off my bedside table lamp.

At 2:15, I wake up to go to the bathroom.  I return to bed and that dreaded, never-far-away, crushing feeling immediately overcomes me: insomnia.

I know – I just know, feel it in my bones as they say – that I will not be sleeping anymore this night.  I give it the old college try, toss and turn for 45 minutes, re-tucking and flipping pillows, taking sips of water, saying affirmations, visualizing something peaceful, deep breathing.  No.  Nothing.  I am wide awake.  Adrenaline is flowing through me.  Not surging, as if I was going down one of them waterslides at Great Wolf Lodge.  No, just a quiet steady flow of adrenaline, much like I picture water running from the faucet in the downstairs half-bath.

No doubt about it.  By 3 am, I realize I am awake.

So I do what I always do when I get insomnia: I head down two sets of stairs to the writing desk, power up the PC, watch In Search Of videos on youtube, and play Freecell.  I do this for fifteen or twenty minutes until guilt becomes overbearing.  I should make productive use of this time.  I open up a week’s worth of bills, stack them neatly on one side of the desk, and fill up the trashcan with junk mail and other nonessential timewasters.  (Note: Freecell is an essential timewaster.)

The boiler creaks and groans, the mice run about in the ceiling panels two feet above me, the dark and snowy front yard peers in at me from shoulder-high windows.  I’m comfortable but tired.  Wish I had an OFF BUTTON on my back, one I can press and be out for a pleasant, rejuvenating eight hours.  But no, I sit in the semi-dark basement watching Sasquatch videos and wondering where exactly my life is going.

Then I hear some ominous sounds: thump thump.  Thump.  Thump thump thump.  I know instantly what those sounds are.  It’s Patch.  Light-sleeping, nightmare-prone, afraid-of-the-dark Patch.  She’s looking for me, and in a minute she’s slowly somnambulating down the stairs to the basement.  “Hi Daddy,” she says and plops into the chair at my wife’s desk a few feet away.  “I was thinking about reading with you.”

I realize immediately I need to put an end, quick, to this madness.

“No, sweetie,” I say, getting up and receiving a full-force Disappointed Six-Year-Old Look.  “I’m tired, and you need sleep.  We have two-and-a-half hours until we need to get up.  Let’s go upstairs and back to bed.”

That takes another ten or fifteen minutes.  Amazing how slow a child can move when she doesn’t want to do something.  Finally Patch is in bed – after grousing about me turning off the hall light – and then I’m back in my bed, covers up to my neck, body slightly turned to the right, eyeing the clock on the DVR seven or eight feet away.  4:20.  The battle resumes.  For me, not Patch.  She’s out thirty seconds after I turn out the light.

And my resumed battle is quickly lost.  I give up by 4:45.  This time I reach for the remote and channel surf.  Watch the end of Groundhog Day and nearly a full thirty minutes of Alaska Marshals.  Faint blue light diffused off the snow begins to creep in through my curtain-free windows.  This is getting extremely ridiculous.  I have a busy, busy day tomorrow and don’t know how I’ll get through it on three hours sleep. 

Still, I toss and turn and flip and flop.  The last time I remember looking at the DVR was 5:50something. 

My cell phone alarm goes off at 6:30.  Turns out I got thirty minutes of deep, dreamless sleep.  That means no REM, but is that good or not?  Dunno.  I roll over, perfectly warm and comfortable and then insomnia plays it’s cruelest joke: I realize that I could sleep for six hours right now.  Six, sixteen, six hundred … makes no difference.  It wouldn’t even take any effort.  I could just doze off and …

Twenty minutes have gone by.  I bolt out of bed.  Need to get the girls fed, dressed, packed, and I need to shower, shave, dress myself, drive them to school and get to work.  No time to lose, and I already feel like I’m two hours behind the morning rush.

Is it any wonder I still regularly – and embarrassingly – fantasize about the greatest night’s sleep I ever had, on the giant, most perfect bed in the entire world, the one I slept in at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, nearly three years ago?

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