I think I was born awake. I never napped. I began to have insomnia at four. And even though I drown under the panoply of Proust's detailed memories, I empathize with his insomnia. And I admire Balzac, who treasured the night, wrote from five until seven and was seen only once in daylight when he had to go to court for a lawsuit.
Once, a boyfriend who had just come back from Tuscon, woke up and began to feed his pet python. The silver bracelets on his arm jangled like the rattles of arattlesnake. His eyes were both blurry and confronted some undefined point in the distance. When I began to talk to him, he startled, then said:
Oh my god. You're a twenty-four-hour-a-day person.
I guess I am. Except when I forget my keys or where I put a bill, I feel a constant awareness. My refuge is the day dream. Ever since I've been a kid I've escaped by staring out the window at nothing in particular, knowing I would have to return to a room with numerous detail, faces and conversations burned into me.
So it was with a strange and abberrant pleasure that I slept for five days solid, felled by a tooth infection. My friends were cats and people offering food. My environment was a tangle of sheets and a feather quilt, more intricately tangled as the days went on, hills, valleys, gulleys, canyons, mountains.
This was a sleep without dreams and a sleep without ideas, images or thoughts. It was, in essence, a writer's vacation, as though the angel of dreams had colluded with the angel of inspiration and they had pulled a screen between me and every image and memory available. The angel of night and day joined in by suspending the distinction between night and day. Sleep was everywhere. And everywhere was sleep. I felt as though I were floating in an ocean.
And then--as suddenly as it began--the infection stopped and I forgot, all over again, what sleep was. The angels of oblivion disappeared. And my long-trusted friend, the angel of daydreaming, took over. Ideas began to surface: Strange, tufted fragments that might be part of my next book appeared. Characters who were eager to audition arrived. Titles that were determined to intrigue me announced themselves.
And, not for the first time, I began to wish there were a country where activities normally done during the day happened at night. Home Depot, for instance, would be haunted by non-sleepers. The aisles would be quiet. The tools would be softly lit. There would be a salesperson for every customer and this salesperson would glide down the aisle, walking in velvet shoes. Costco would have a cathedral-like calm. The rolls of towels and toilet paper would be lit by candles.
I think I might like this country better than the vacation of endless sleep. I imagine amazing encounters with people I would never talk to in the course of a day. I see small holes-in-the-wall with one or two people eating soup, bric-a-brac shops with illuminated windows. And of course there are bookstores. Some of them are filled with books that have already been written. They are evenly placed, easy to find. Others are filled with books that have not yet been written. They are behind thick doors that lead to halls and endless bookcases.
After getting a garden hose at Home Depot and boxes of detergent at Costco, I would immerse myself in these stores, browsing the first bookstores, and burying myself in the second. Then night would become a place of refuge without sleep, without tossing and turning and wondering if I should work or wach a Netflx. I might even meet Proust, restless after a few hours in his cork-lined room. Or Colette, who stayed awake until three, writing in the blue light of a blue paper lantern. Or Balzac, out for a brisk walk. Oh! To sleep! one of us would say. Those lucky people who can sleep at night. Those lucky people who are sleeping now. Would we mean it? No, not at all. Reveling in the velvet sky, the candle-lit bookstores, the commaraderie of peaceful insomniacs, we would be glad to live in such a country. And if we found a dark store that offered the vacation of no sleep, we would look inside for an instant and hurry on.
Causes Thaisa Frank Supports
Kiva Doctors without Borders Care2