Posts Tagged ‘sleep’

because i said i would.

ellen told me i needed to update with something.

“just take a photo booth picture,” she said, and went back to her geography text.

then she fell asleep.

… i followed through.

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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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A friend once told me that he preferred the moon, because compared with the sun, the moon was far more noble.  He asked me if I agreed.

I told him that maybe, but I’d rather just get rich and buy distant relatives fine china for wedding presents, that I saw a set of Waterford crystal wise men that my second cousin would just die for.  All three of them, I said.

He told me about wars and genocide and the environment and shouldn’t I spend my money on that.  This was after I just ordered hot water at the café down the street from the market where, every week, I buy a whole organic local chicken for my dog.  My friend sipped his macchiato and I said that I dunno, it’s easier to get up on sunny days rather than rainy ones, much less moony one.  Had he ever been to Alaska?  They sure must have some noble winters in Alaska.

He told me he saw a documentary about how Alaskan farmed salmon is getting into the indigenous population.  That’s the word he used, indigenous.  It’s fucked up, he told me.

I said that yeah, it’s fucked up because I didn’t want to tell him that I did agree, it was more noble, that it was easier to be awake when no one else was, if for no other reason than the fact that you would be asleep when they would later be awake, that maybe there was something noble in that.  At night, no wars are declared, no races extinguished, no forests cut down, nope, not on my watch.  I wanted to tell him that it’s only when the sun comes out that everything goes to shit.  And it’s not escapism, I’d say, it is noble, but I didn’t and I just drank my hot water and instead told him how tired I suddenly got.

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It is not that it made a difference in the café or
bottle of wine or changed footstep after
bootstep crossing streets and bridges.  
It did not alter the torn jeans.  It did not
wear down
any more the rubber heels.

If anything, he saved money
on phone cards and had an extra hour
on idle Saturdays.
If anything, it changed his
sleep tonight.  The curtains not quite drawn
closed, enough to let in the street light
to reflect off his worn leather
jacket on the coatrack
and her skirt,
bunched on the floor.

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My sister’s child, my nephew, he gets in moods for days where everything is terrible.  He says that he hates all the food you offer to him.  He hates his favorite movie.  His bed is too small, or too big.  Those windows are too open and he is too hot, or too cold.  It is impossible to convince him of the possible merit of anything.  My sister says she feels like that, now.  She tells me this on the phone.  We are five minutes away from one another and talk on the phone every night.  That part is new. 

“I simply feel restless.” I tell her.  “But it’s not the sort restlessness that causes me to buy plane tickets or throw away half my boxes in storage.  It’s not the restlessness that gets piles of years of photos sorted or CDs alphabetized.  I find myself a half hour into multiple movies, half way through multiple books.  My kitchen table is covered in enrollment papers never sent in, fully filled out, but never sent in; cooking classes, yoga, wine tasting, dog training classes, and I don’t even have a dog.”

“Oh, you’re getting a dog?” she says.  “I hear that is suppose to be therapeutic.”

“I read something like that too.”


I cook grand dinners for myself because it is something to do and I barely eat any, yet there is still never enough time in a day.  There is always the next five minutes that are far more important than right now, yet never quite happen.  The future tense is tough.


I dusted twice this week, everything in the house.


My sister says she wants to come over more but cannot get herself to leave the house.  “Not that I can stand it any longer inside,” she tells me.  But she never leaves.

“Not even for shopping,” she says.

“Yeah.  Retail therapy.” I say, not knowing what I mean.


We make lots of non-committal plans, a lot of sometime-next-weeks, but always have the phone to our ears.  I have her programmed on my speed dial, number two, after our mother’s old number that is now out of service, but I never use the speed dial.


The radio says that one candidate called the other a boar, or his wife, or his running mate.  I did not quite hear.  The one candidate said he did not and the other said that it is a disgrace.  I sure wish I could vote for both.  They are both just so appealing.

I wonder what the press would say if they cared when I flip out, like last night.  I went chalking words in my street, needing someone to know.  Cars drove over it all the next day rubbing it away.  It rained the day after.  First, teenage was lost, then suicide, Now, all that is left is the word stop and still now no one listens.

“There are better places than pavement to get involved,” my sister says into the phone. “Get your message heard,” she says.

“I’m thinking bumper stickers,” I say.


They asked me if I wanted to be there the day they announced it on the intercom at his school.  I had to wait at the front desk because of increased security, “with all the shootings and all,” the school secretary said.  After that, I did not make it to the main office in time.  I saw latecomers rushing to class when the announcement was made.  Some stopped.  Most did not.  “That sucks,” one said, “that totally sucks.”

The headlines that day in the town paper were that a train derailed, 15 dead, a storm hit the Texas coast, one million flee, and the boar comment.  “Teen taken too soon,” page 15a. 

Days before, over dinner, my brother asked me if I was depressed.

“Not depressed,” I said, “just restless.”

“Yeah.  I’m not depressed, either,” he said, “just melancholic.”

“That’s good though, I guess,” I said.

“Yeah.  I’m not depressed,” he asserted.

Realizing he wanted more, “melancholy is good,” I said.  “The questioning of one’s self and the world, searching for answers to the grander questions…”

“Smart people are dumb,” my brother said.

“Smart people are sad,” I corrected.

My brother was really smart.


I drank coffee every morning and now I drink none.  I do not know how to make it.  That was his job.  He made it before he went to school but never drank any, left the pot for me.

When I would wake up early enough, I took the subway with him.  He told me of how he sometimes would miss his stop.  “Slept right through it,” he would say.  I never understood that.  He would fall asleep too, when I was there with him.  I have to look at the sign at every stop to see where the train is, and then look at the map near the ceiling to see how many stops are left.  I need to repeat this at every stop, even if this is the route I take everyday.  I inherently know that there are five stops left yet I still check.  My brother, he slept through stops.  Napping was his way of living in the moment.

I saw a commercial for a motivation speaker who gives big conferences on how to enhance your life.  In the commercial, over slowly intensifying music, a man in the audience admits to wanting to commit suicide.  The speaker from the stage, with eyes blazing says, “NO.  I won’t let you.  I won’t let you be that selfish.” 


“Do happy people do this thing I do with laundry?” my sister asks.

“What do you do with laundry?”

“I try on outfits, the ones that don’t work, I put in a pile.  When I do laundry, If  I do laundry,” she corrects herself, “I put all the discarded outfits in with the dirty stuff.  I somehow believe in that moment that balling it all up with the rest of my shirts and pants, lugging them down the street, paying money to wash them, wait for them, dry them, wait for them and then haul them home, fold them, and put them away, all that, all that takes less energy than simply folding them and putting them away.  Do happy people do that too?”

“You’re not depressed,” I say.

“Yeah.  I know.  I’m not depressed.”

“And I do the same thing with dishes.  Like for my grand dinners, if I don’t use the fork, or the spoon, or the knife that I set, and I rarely do, I still wash all three of them.”

“Are you happy though?” she asks.

The boats on the river go slowly and I watch them from the bridge and I wonder if I would survive a jump onto the top of one of the tourist boats as it goes under me.  I realize that when I thought survive just then, I did not mean live.  I meant not break any limbs, get caught by the police, end up in the river.  Now, survival seems to mean more.

I watched a movie about 12th century knights sent to present day by a sorcerer.  They ended up in New York City and were afraid of everything and everything of them.  I wondered what my brother would do if he had a blunt ax in Times Square because I am sure he would wonder the same thing.

Would have.  He would have wondered the same thing.  The past tense is tough.


“The first few days of every season are my favorite season.  Why is it always sunny when seasons change?” my sister says on the phone. 

“Hot air.  Cold air.  The changing does something.  I don’t know.”  My phone is beeping, running out of batteries. 

“The change somehow makes it sunny,” she says.

“Sure,” I say.


My sister always said that my brother saw colors that the rest of us did not, that sight for him was just more vivid and lively.  He would get caught up in subtle sights and turned off by loud ones, like a dog who howls at police sirens, the pitch being too intense.  That is how neon lighting was for him.  She said he felt things deeper than we did and always knew when her mood would change, even from a room away. 


“Maybe he just needed less,” she says.

“Not more?” I say.  “Don’t they usually say that they need more?”

“Not him though,” she says.  “I think he needed less.”


The week before he died, I took my brother to his favorite restaurant.  He fell asleep on the subway, on my shoulder.  His hair smelled like product and his head was heavy and I almost missed the stop.  I went back to that restaurant tonight.  His favorite there was hot chocolate and it was good and I liked it too.  It is thick and dark, bitter and far from a child’s drink.  He loved it, he told me, though he could never finish it.  I always finished mine.  “It’s so good,” he told me, “I just can’t finish it.  It’s too much.”  I never understood that, nor anyone else that leaves chocolate cake left, or the last little piece of meat on their plate.  If it is so good, you finish it.

I tell my sister about this. 

“Maybe everything was like that for him,” she says.

“What do you mean?”

“Like life, maybe it was just so good, rich, for him, that he couldn’t finish it.”

“Yeah,” I say.  “Maybe.”


Tonight, when we hang up the phone.  I try to see colors that others cannot.  I try to have the taste of hot chocolate linger on my tongue and I try to have it be too much.  I try to feel textures more with my hand, on the couch, the smoothness of a mirror, and see if candles hide the artificial extremeness of a house fully lit at night.  I try to cry at a book and not be able to watch a film because it is too violent.  I try to have the cars passing and people talking in the street below be too noisy that I cannot sleep.  I try to tune in to what we tune out.  I try to understand.  I am left with not too much but little more than a focus on the background, losing the now, not embracing it.  Time, like music passing, I try to grab the notes a measure back, two beats too late.  I grab at time, feeling each footstep of each passerby in the street below.  I see their rubber soled shoes, laces undone.  I try to understand.

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