I mean, how hard is it? Close eyes, breathe rhythmically for eight hours, open eyes, get up. I’ve been doing it since the womb.
But no more, at least not for the last decade. I think it started when I turned forty, this business of waking up at 2 am to pee and wander around and eat some cereal and then go back to bed and stare at the ceiling and think about all things that could be wrong with my body and my bank account and then read some more from a book I only read in the middle of the night and then punch the stupid pillow and flip it over and flip the one under it over and then straighten the sheets and then kick them off again and then ask Jenny in a low voice if she’s awake to which she mutters back something inaudible and flips the other direction so I read some more, and then realize it’s eight o’clock and I am late and feel like someone shagcarpeted my mouth and poured maple sauce into my eye sockets, and my Kindle is wedged under my cheek and has debossed a rectangular frame into my face which will last there till midmorning and there’s not really time for a shower but living without one is inconceivable and the dogs are looking at me like I have committed crimes against caninity by making them wait this long for a walk and I know the day ahead is bound to feel like my head is wrapped in a blanket dunked in plaster, but so it goes. At least, thank God, Nighttime is over.
This lovely experience can be mine for the reliving twice a week. No guarantees, though. Sometimes I can sleep perfectly for six days at a time. At others, I hopscotch through a weeklong minefield of insomnia. My doctor said to try skipping caffeine after breakfast — which doesn’t make any discernible difference. My grandfather, the doctor, lived to be 98 by prescribing himself a valium and a shot of brandy before bed every night. I think my mum does something similar. I am very drug averse (see my essay on my time as a junky) so most nights, I just tough it out, and let the hours tick by in the darkness.
In my twenties, I could easily sleep till mid afternoon but that changed when Jack was born. Even if he didn’t stir all night, I would still startle awake thinking he was choking or screaming or all too quiet. and then do the whole staring-at-the-ceiling-thinking-about-cancer-and-the-IRS thing. These days, Jack is asleep on the other side of the country, but my sleep pattern is permanently damaged. I fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow, then bounce back at the slightest disturbance.
My neighborhood is an asshole magnet. Assholes visit the bars on West 3rd Street and on MacDougal and Bleecker and then they are drawn to the pavement under my building, to sing songs from the ’90s and fight over where they parked the car. Asshole couples make a point of breaking up on my corner. There must be a Yelp review that recommends it as the place to vomit and cry and scream and catalog slights and infidelities, slap and claw faces, pull hair, key cars, and then have make-up sex. Thumbs up!
Current events inspire the assholes too. Any kind of sporting event (football, rugby, ping pong, darts) needs to be celebrated loudly, late into the night, and, of course, on my corner. Last night, after the defeat of the AHCA, an asshole kept screaming, “Obama is still President!” over and over. That’s what woke us up at 2:30. “Obama is still President!” Normally that would be a dream come true. Last night it was a fucking nightmare.
Fortunately, it’s Saturday and I am going to take an afternoon nap on the couch. I need to rest up because tonight I’m going out with friends to some other neighborhood and get really, really drunk, scream a lot in the street, throw up, pass out in the gutter and finally catch up on my sleep.
PS Please don’t leave me any helpful suggestions for how to sleep better. They just make me anxious and inflame my hypochondria. Thanks.