a friend in high school told me that if you go without sleep for a long time you can bring on hallucinations. We tried it once, but I fell asleep after about a day and a half of that thin, drawn-out feeling. My friend lasted two full days, and he started to see strange things: unreal moving shapes and noises becoming patterns in your head. A sentence condensed down to a single word that repeats over and over even after the sound has gone like a wave that keeps crashing.

That’s not what insomnia is. Some people believe they don’t sleep at all, but that’s not what it is either. You just never sleep enough. Your body runs you on the minimum amount of sleep required to keep you alive. Some nights there is no sleep. Other nights, you can grab maybe two, three hours. Mostly there are no dreams, so you think you haven’t slept. You roll over, and the clock is an hour closer to morning than it was before. The flicker of your eyes is slower for a moment, and that is the closest you get to real rest. Slowly the life drains out of you. The feeling of reality is gone, like you’re looking at everything through a sheet of clear perspex. Watching a movie that wraps all around you and will not let you go.

Sleep. deprivation. SD. Like Standard Deviation. The distance of data from the mean. The average person sleeps about 7 hours a night I think. We are definitely a deviation. The insomniacs. Some can’t sleep until the morning, some wake up too early. Some talk online in late night early morning hazes, wait through the sounds of waking that ripple across the country from East to West each day. I guess it’s a community, but one that none of us really want to be part of.
you can meet someone that way. There are ads on Craigslist: ‘can’t sleep – want some company’; ‘I can’t sleep. Anyone want to chat?’; ‘can’t sleep msn anyone? – w4mw – 19’. Insomniac sex is vague, impersonal, flat. That same feeling pervades all parts of the sleep-deprived life. we watch clocks. Tonight I climbed into bed at 11:17pm. It is now 1:31am. I have watched the digits flick their green bars into place so many times I have lost count, and my mind starts to wander. The green bars are imprinted on the inside of my closed eyes like a neon prison, blinking on and off but a little too fast for me to escape between the blinks. Eventually they slow to something like a heartbeat, but before I can relax too much I have a sudden panic. I sit up quickly in bed… I have left some food out on the kitchen counter. It’s been out there all day. An apple I took out of the fridge at 2am last night, but never ate. I can picture it growing wrinkled and old, attracting cockroaches and worms. Lie down. Now behind my eyes the green bars reform into a hexagonal green apple that starts to run out of the bottom of my view in a vile green mojito slush. After a few minutes of this I have to get up and find the apple. The attempt to sleep is reset as soon as I leave the bed.
there are lots of treatments. Melatonin kept me up even more, 5HTP did nothing, the list of sleeping pills is just another thing to cycle through my brain when I’m lying awake. Seroquel, temazepam, trazodone, zopiclone, remeron – put them in dosage order, alphabetical order, nausea strength order. I tried watching long slow movies like the Seventh Seal or Lawrence of Arabia; listening to slow, soothing music, wearing lavender eye masks. All just items in the cycling lists. Put them in order by director, by release date, by number of academy awards. My Doctor suggested finding the cause rather than treating the symptoms, but I think on some level I feel this torture is shaping me. I may even be encouraging it. The haggard face, the jitters, the unfocused way I watch the computer screen at work. I am letting them define me. I watch movies late at night, sleep with a clock in the room, bake cookies at 2am while listening to early Prodigy tracks. Maybe trying and failing is worse than not trying. Or maybe fixing this would leave me nothing else to blame.

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Quote

Three in the morning, thought Charles Halloway, seated on the edge of the bed. Why did the train come at that hour?
For, he thought, it’s a special hour. Women never wake then, do they? They sleep the sleep of babies and children. But men in middle age? They know that hour well. Oh God, midnight’s not bad, you wake and go back to sleep, one or two’s not bad, you toss but sleep again. Five or six in the morning, there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon. But three, now, Christ, three A.M.! doctors say the body’s at low tide then. The soul is out. The blood moves slow. You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying. Sleep is a patch of death, but three in the morn, full wide-eyed staring, is living death! You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rouse up, you’d slaughter your half-dreams with buckshot! But no, you lie pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s turned dry. The moon rolls by to look at you down there, with its idiot face. It’s a long way back to sunset, a far way on to dawn, so you summon all the fool things of your life, the stupid lovely things done with people known so very well who are now so very dead — and wasn’t it true, had he read it somewhere, more people in hospitals die at 3 A.M. than at any other time…?

Ray Bradbury
Something Wicked this Way Comes

Midnight in a Perfect World

I’m kind of bored today. I decided to write something. The title and repeated line ‘it’s now approaching midnight’ come from an excellent DJ Shadow song. The alliterative style I think is called something like Anglo Saxon split-line poetry, which I’ve used before. In this case I thought that the alliteration was sort of evocative of the ticking clock.

I lie awake, listening to the alert ticking
Of the clock, cold hands creeping around
to touch me, terror trickles over my bones
it’s now approaching midnight

I imagine infinite loops
always returning, wrathful, revengeful to midnight
the second hand circles, seeks, dives
it’s now approaching midnight

I writhe around, roiling in torment
who will help me with this hot-wire in the soul
I tumble out, tiptoe towards the clock
it’s now approaching midnight

I strike, smash seconds off the leering face
it drops, defeated, dilapidated to the floor
hands held up as if to help itself
it’s now approaching midnight

I Return, too tired, to bed
Settle down, safe, but suddenly… tick
Silence, scraped by a second, shatters
it’s now exactly midnight

Editing poetry: single frame

This is my newest and I suppose last relationship, although I realise as I write this that I am creating these posts in order, but not scheduling them in order. I am quite pleased with this, although I suppose it’s more about insomnia than it is about the girl concerned…

frame
chill blue half-light
it seems you spend
your life
precarious
in long delay
stare at the ceiling
shadow thin slices 64ths
she is polarised next to you
realtime
drops hebenon seconds
magnetic
does not touch the surface

outside – black and white patterns
condense overlap
fine grey rain, silent sparks
fill empty space like
a laugh too loud
imagined prey of a cat
stare until
you can burn
this world to your retina
cauterize
build fantasy from cinders
press the live skin together
as if it has meaning

pause of breath held
coruscating touch
she turns away
from this frail amalgam
but not back
she is aperiodic
opaque to the lull
of glass-flat space between
lithe in obdurate sleep
frozen
frame

Editing poetry: single frame.