Posts Tagged ‘insomnia’

I once had a job restocking shelves from 10 p.m. to sunrise.  At the end of each shift, my manager would ring a bell and shout, “Everything’s in stock, the only thing we’re out of is our mother fucking minds!” He’d be screaming this shaking his head with his jaw loose, always drooling a little. The bell was an old gold dinner bell and loud enough to be heard through all of the fluorescent aisles — not just heard, you’d have to plug your ears.  It always made the sunrise over the empty parking lot that much more enjoyable.

At Christmas time, we’d still have to listen to the same Sinatra jingles CD on loop, despite the lack of customers.  To this day, when I hear it, my knees get a little week and my finger-nails dig into my palms.

I’d run through conversations in my head about what would happen if one of the non-existent customers ever asked me a question about what isle the frozen dinners were in and I’d send her to the fruit and vegetable aisle. I loved doing that. I’d always send them to the fruit and vegetable aisle. Take that suckers, PEARS.

It’s times like this that lunch and dinner become something you used to do, when you reach for burnt coffee before you think to open your eyes, when you forget to have any relationships at all.  At the time I thought the only person I could trust was my manager and his bell, and he’d come through every time, smiling wiping the drool off his sleeve. I was too tired to be sad and too exhausted to think about changing anything.

There was one day I left and Carina was outside with a cup of coffee.  She said she couldn’t believe she had gotten up that early. I told her that I couldn’t believe it either. She took me to breakfast and it was weird to sit and eat, and order off a menu. I have to chose what I want? It required more thought than I had put into anything for a while.

She told me an omelette would do me good, that I could use the protein. She ordered for me and got me an orange juice, too.

I think I slept that night, and I don’t think I went back to work anymore.

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Quiet now and someone left the lights on. Noticed it when I woke up for the bathroom. Maybe Andy had gotten up for some orange juice, left the light on again. She likes the sugar at night. I hate when the lights get left on. I like sleeping in places where I don’t know how many steps from bed to door, three steps out past the staircase and a right into the bathroom careful to miss the towel rack. I like it when I crash into things, makes me feel like I’m on vacation. But the lights are on now and here I am.

Summer park today and it was so hot I couldn’t focus. The temperature gets up there and suddenly it becomes the woman crying at the end of early color films. “But when will I ever see you again?” the trees say to me as I hold their lower back and they faint in my arms. 

“Andy?” I said as she was drinking out of the container. “Why are you up?”

“Needed a drink,” she said. “Couldn’t sleep. Bad dreams. Too hot. Have a lot of things on my mind. Couldn’t sleep.”

And of all the ailments one could have, even a blend of everything that makes a night sleepless, I find myself with no excuses. It’s not that I can’t sleep, I can. It’s just that I am not currently sleeping.

“Why are you up?” She says.

“It’s always the transition that gets me.”

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First night of spring and the downstairs neighbor knocks on my door.  Can’t sleep, he tells me and I ask why.  “When I was eleven, or maybe twelve,” he says, and I think here we go and boil some water for tea.

“How long ago was that?” I ask him.

“1924,” he says.  “I took the train alone that year for the first time.  Marseille-Lyon-Paris.”

He tells me that he didn’t know why he took it, but that he did.  It isn’t that he didn’t remember why he took it, he tells me, but just at the time, he decided he was good and ready to take the train.  

“When I got here, I went walking,” he says, “over to the theater.”

I pour the water over some herbs from the window sill.

“But the gate surrounding it was tall and it was night and everything was closed.  No one was on the street so I tried to climb right on over.” he tells me and then stops.  He traces old blistered fingers on my table.  Either the wood catches his skin or the inverse, neither are smooth.  His eyes narrow.

“The gate was sharp,” he tells me, “the top of it.  I got one leg over fine,” he says, “to the other side.”  I pour him a cup.  “And the other got caught, stabbed right through my pants.

Arrowhead,” he says.

Flipped him right over, he tells me.  And there he was, suspended, upside down facing the lights of the city as the night fell deep, the scent of the tree above, a distant radio from the corner shop, and far off, dice players, he assumed are in uniform, speaking arabic.

“It was 85 years ago,” he tells me, “and I still know who won,” as he sips his tea.

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