The Sip

An archive of notes from 2015—2019

How Do You Sleep at Night

   Helen Masacz : Empty Bed / How Can You Sleep At Night. Oil on Board

Helen Masacz : Empty Bed / How Can You Sleep At Night. Oil on Board

I’ve never been an insomniac. I like sleep – love it, in fact.

The falling part and the waking up part are my most favorite savored bits of joy in a day. To drift off into another state of being, that unconscious, restful labyrinth that unwinds like a secret tunnel and appears out of nowhere, it’s like discovering a portal in the clouds and it’s irresistible. 

Then there’s the part before you rise, when you are not quite aware of the fact that you are becoming aware, and the blankets form around your body and hover over your warm skin like a hollow container molded to fit your exact position. A warm inner shell that one movement or conscious thought could crack, so you must lay still, relish this part until a slice of light cuts across the sheets and it’s over for the day.

It’s in this liminal moment you realize all that tossing and turning the night before was impossibly wasteful. Look how easy it is to be still! Now, being so cozy, it’s inconceivable that you had trouble finding the labyrinth at all. 

But right now I cannot sleep. So instead I dive into a different maze. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s deep and it’s wet. Constructed of open loops and lights that lure you around corners that lead to nowhere, built out of thoughts formed as questions without answers. 

Like a small tear in the leather couch that I should just leave alone. It’s a scuff, really, not even a tear, but a minor scratch. Instead, I pick the one tiny piece that is available for picking and I make damn sure it becomes a tear. The tear becomes a hole, one that I poke and make bigger. My head is in the sofa. What’s back there? My own need to know-ness leads me here, unable to leave it be and driven insane by the possibility that there is something beneath this surface I must uncover.

So I wreck the side of a perfectly good piece of furniture and follow the dark winding paths to various dead ends. Thinking in the dark like this, at a time when sleep would be the only natural thing to be doing, is like driving during rush hour when you’re late for something unimportant, with your eyes closed. It’s urgently unproductive, and pointless, and you should really just turn around and go home. 

And then, sitting in the dark on this leather sofa in the den that I punished for no reason, I learn things.

I learn that the neighbor vacuums (or blow dries her hair?) well after midnight. I learn that the kitchen never really goes to sleep. It stays up all night, too, making mysterious sounds. How does a floor not being walked on creak like that? The cupboards seem to vibrate inconsistently, and I listen to the irregular crackle of metal things in drawers, simply touching each other.

It makes me wish for my own like object to nest with, to lay with; we could be simply touching each other, too. But instead my knees just get stiff from sitting cross-legged in the dark, and the fridge hums a tuneless song. Someone is snoring. Something is ticking. Something is dripping. I’ve missed out on the portal and I’ve gotten left behind; I’m awake.

Other things move about and I can hear them, I just can’t confirm from or to where, and it reminds me of my thoughts: darting around in their own maze, trapped in my mind, preventing me from sleep, racing away from me at the precise moment I might grab onto one and then, along with it, reason. Or better even, sleep.

But nope, my eyes are squinting at a computer screen instead of watching one of those rare movies projected on the soft orange flesh of the back of my eyelids.

My feet are falling asleep though, in a circulatory kind of irony. I crack my knuckles again. I can never remember my dreams anyway. The couch is soft and warm considering it’s leather in a cold room on a rainy night, and I’m feeling like maybe I could lay down and keep my mind quiet just long enough to find that wormhole to slumber. 

But I don’t. I just sit and listen some more, and wonder if the bottle of wine I had for dinner wasn’t enough or was too much. I’d pour myself another glass if I could.

Of course there was nothing behind that tear in the couch. How the mysteries of mid-night hours are improbably solved by a rising sun is a mystery in its own right. But without fail, all those open loops are closed and the dead ends of the mind unlock into freed passageways just as soon as day breaks. 

Still I wonder if that impulse to peel back that tear is a strength or a weakness. Maybe I would like for someone to do the same to me, peel some of it back because they’re too curious and just have to know, have to ask, have to pry, even. I’m sure there’s nothing shocking to find, or interesting even, but just the idea that someone must find out seems like a worthwhile part of love.

Then maybe you would also be able to see that there’s no mystery to solve, no point in staying awake to get lost, and falling asleep would be no problem at all.