14) WHEN I CAN’T SLEEP . . .

    When I can’t sleep, I get up in the night and either stare into darkness or scrutinize my own body until I again believe I am real and can fade into dreams. Sometimes the quiet petrifies my soul, but an ambulance siren bearing the near dead can relieve my fears and remind me I am not the unlucky one.

    When I can’t sleep, I turn on the reading light to finish a magazine article or dog-eared chapters in books I could put down, and sometimes I get out of bed in bathrobe and slippers unless I forget the slippers until my feet turn to ice and remain shivering long after I return to my bed, but I get up and dress in midnight clothes and get out of bed to write in scrambles not decipherable in daylight.

    When I can’t sleep, I mull memories of damages and ravaged regrets, of traumas I terrorized, of cracked egos and overwrought anxieties, personalities I destroyed or decayed, and I shudder at the threat of Final Judgment.

    When I can’t sleep, I cackle loud with self cleverness and pleasures in wit and humor, my own entertainment oh-well-now-I’ll-never-get-back-to-sleep. Nothing keeps you awake like midnight laughter, to wake up from a dream laughing. I wake with jokes or songs or movies fully scripted and orchestrated, the Mozart of pop dreams.

    When I can’t sleep, I close my eyes and pretend I can return to slumber even though conversations and debates in my brain overlap and cross in simultaneous complicated transmissions of confused petty arguments, philosophical ponderings, and a mental post-it note "where did I park my car?"

When I can’t sleep, I worry that I drank too much at dinner, and did I make a fool of myself, or was I the life of the party, and I make a vow with god as my witness (even though I’m an atheist, I love that line from 'Gone With the Wind') that tomorrow I’ll never do it again, and I don’t, but the next night I do.

    When I can’t sleep, I try all the traditional techniques of the somnambulist. I’ve tried warm milk, but that only makes me want warm milk with cocoa so I’ve tried warm milk with cocoa, and that only makes me want more. One night, I made the mistake of trying-to-be-productive. I organized my desk, my belongings, and my life. By the time I went back to bed, my thoughts were too structured, too strictly configured, like the blue-prints of a labyrinth laid before me on a four dimensional clef.

    When I can’t sleep, I lie next to you frozen, not wanting to move or rattle or groan or disturb your slumber, to subject you to the same ridiculous waking state that haunts my every midnight repose. Listening to your breathing, the regular beat offset by the occasional whimper or snort, and I wonder how do you roll over and change positions so completely, so effortless, so sloppy, so charmingly child-like stupid -- and yet never wake up.

    How do you do that?