I close my eyes and images appear in my mind. They’re ones I haven’t conjured up. They’re immediate and ugly and ferocious — a dismembered arm, a spider crawling outwards from an eye with its silky, black legs, and a red hourglass on its belly. I can’t sleep. Sometimes I wish I was a hamster. Hamsters are nocturnal, after all, and this sleeplessness at night would then be acceptable.
I take a deep breath. (The kind that cracks your spine in a few places at once, but doesn’t calm you down.) I’m not sure what time it is and I’d rather not know, thanks. No thank you, phone. No thank you, alarm clock. No thank you, clock in the bathroom that hovers above the toilet.
My mind has been consumed with, This and this and this and this and this and THIS. Except each “this” is filled to near overflow with a worry that’s rooted in a What If. What if I never write a book? What if the cancer comes back? What if I’m abandoned again? What if? What if? What if? This steady stream is hard to disarray or muffle.
There is a man sleeping next to me. His name is Boyfriend. He has been asleep for hours upon hours plus one more —snoring and sighing and snarling the way a man with cigarette-scented sweaters does. Since we had sex that left a wet spot shaped like a blowtorch on the left of the bed. (The right side of the bed is mine.)
“Have you tried melatonin?” They ask. “Valerian root? Chamomile tea? Meditation? Yoga? Writing in your journal? Reading a boring book? Baths? Crossword puzzles? Cutting out coffee? Cutting out donuts? Masturbation? Linear equations? Xanax? Anthrax? Voodoo?”
I have. And my thoughts aren’t swayed by the slight suggestion of sleep that melatonin spurs. I wish I could tell them to go the fuck to sleep. (My thoughts and the advice givers.) There’s nothing lonelier than the hell of awareness and a buzzing mind when all you want is sleep.
Based on my wrestle with such, this is an insomniac’s guide to sleep:
1. Take a sleep aid (over the counter or not).
Options include, but aren’t limited to: NUXA
Nyquil – does the job, but leaves you in a fog
Unisom – does the job, but leaves you in a grog
Xanax – your mind will love this a little too much (i.e. see addiction)
Ambien – your mind will not love this (i.e. see smothered like a heavy vest in the
Dentist’s office during x-rays)
2. Check under your bed and in your closet (for monsters and/or serial killers). You must do this every night because the night that you do not do this is the night there will be a serial killer under your bed.
3. Read a very boring book, such as What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This is only boring if you’re not awaiting vaginal tearing and human spawning in nine months or less.
4. Distribute lavender spray on your bed to relax, dude. Do this after burning sage to rid your room of the insomnia spirits from the previous night. (Close your mouth, Boyfriend.)
5. Wear an eye mask.
6. Wear earplugs.
7. Have sex before wearing your eye mask and earplugs.
8. Is Boyfriend too tired? Masturbate while he snores next to you.
9. Do mental exercises such as:
Write all of your worries down on an imaginary chalk board and then erase them.
Count backwards from 399 by 3’s.
Imagine yourself standing in various places of the world screaming at the top of your lungs, from the Egyptian pyramids, to the alley next to your home.
10. Take a deep breath and pray. You’re confirmed Catholicism has to be good for something, since you won’t be getting married in a church anytime soon.
I’ve tried imagining my day from start to finish. I’ve gone for a walk and was startled to discover no one outside. The bars were closed. I accidentally looked at the clock — it was four in the morning and I had work the next day. I tried not to worry about that. I’ve tried it all.
I wake up Boyfriend up again. For the fourth and half time. “I can’t sleep.” I tell him. He pulls me towards him and nestles me in his armpit like a restless creature of the night. He rubs my head and asks me to tell him about my favorite fruit. I do, and feel better for a moment until he snores again and the What-If’s return. What if What if What if What if What if What if. I hear the trash man. What if What if What if. I hear the toenails of the dog on the floor above me. What if what if what if. I hear Boyfriend’s cigarette boy snores. I crack my toes. What if what if. Some nights are just like that.