Allow me to describe to you what I think Insomnia is–or rather, who.
Have you ever been paid a visit by this shape-shifting transient of the night? Perhaps you could share with me what that encounter was like. I’ve never seen the face of this shadowy drifter, but I’d like to think I know him rather well.
Even in the silence (you can hear cat one and cat two sashaying softly through the house, but only if you are hold-your-breath quiet) he knows how to notify you of his presence, as the rigid red numbers on the desk clock dutifully, sluggishly proceed toward what I consider to be the “black hole” phase of the night that yawns endlessly between way-too-late and bleary-eyed-early.
And you cross your fingers behind your back where he can’t see them, not tonight, please not tonight. Because tonight just might be the night you get sucked away into that black hole, where even the sun can’t be bothered to stop by, where you’ll wait and wait for a morning that will never show up. (And it doesn’t matter if you think you’re sleepy, exhausted, drop-dead-where-you-stand tired. When Insomnia slips under your door and sidles up next to you where you lay, he will zap the sleepy serenity right out of you. You’ll quickly learn that feeling weary is not the all-access pass to the kingdom of the comatose that you once thought it was.)
He’ll remind you gently of your subservience to him by planting an itch in your left foot, a desire for just one more sip should do the trick. With jumpy, giddy, twirly thoughts that just won’t settle down, dammit. With sheets that are just a tad too whispery, murmuring unintelligible nothings as they rustle past one another. Or maybe it’s just your ears that are a touch too sensitive tonight, because you swear up and down that you can hear yourself blinking, the trees rustling outside, the neighbor’s dog rolling over in its sleep, and why is everything SO LOUD?
If you try to ignore him…well, you probably shouldn’t. Because then he’ll see to it that you’ll switch sides of the bed fifty times in ten minutes, because maybe just one more readjustment will solve all of your problems–you know it won’t, but you’re a little panicky at this point, and the hour of logical thought came and went who knows how many flipped pillows ago. You’ll start counting sheep, but you’ll give up when the 160th one appears in your mental pasture and you are no closer to being unconscious, and you’ll curse at all of the adults from your childhood who promised you that this tactic would work (just keep counting, honey).
And don’t even think about counting the seconds as they march by, the minutes, the hours. That, my friend, is a dangerous game to play. Before you know it you’ll be pacing around your room, and you’ll envision everyone you know resting easy all snuggled up in their beds like the actors in NyQuil commercials, and the envy will trickle through your veins glowing emerald-green. And all the while you’ll be stealing paranoid glances at the clock as it apathetically reminds you that time is a train that stops for no one. And you’ll feel sick to your stomach and remind yourself to throw a towel over the stupid thing tomorrow night.
It’s best to play it safe. It’s best to resist the urge to dejectedly get out of bed, plod down the hall to the medicine cabinet with your eyes half-closed, and swallow those three (four, five, six?) tiny pills that are supposed to ease your restlessness but most likely won’t. It’s best to remind yourself that another trip to the kitchen to refill your glass of water won’t fix the never ending dryness in your throat. Another round of on-again off-again with the blankets won’t magically produce the perfect sleeping temperature. It’s best to ride out the merry-go-round that is your thoughts until it spins its way into oblivion; to let the tornado in your brain carry you to wherever it is you go in your sleep.
The result still won’t be too satisfying, I’ll warn you of that right now. It’ll be a grayish, fleeting, tempestuous encounter with the unconscious, and if you’re lucky, you won’t see anything while you’re there. If you do, the images will be chills down your spine unsettling, because Insomnia becomes displeased when his spell (finally) ceases to enchant you and he’ll see to it that you suffer in the dream world.
And when you get up the next morning people are likely to comment on the circles under your eyes, couldn’t sleep again, huh? They’ll smile sympathetically when you speak of Insomnia, but try not to get too upset if they breeze over your recollection of events from last night (cue nods and vague condolences). After all, they are familiar with his clinical definition, not with his persona.
He’s never paid them a visit.
But that’s probably because he’s been too busy visiting you.