April 13, 2006

Staring Down the Night

She didn’t call it insomnia, because the sleeplessness hit her only about three nights a week. She found it irritating, sometimes even self-critically amusing: another night when she’d have to stay up pointlessly, not enjoying herself, not doing what her body wanted, and sure to get behind on her work the next day. She rarely mentioned it to anyone, and only with a shrug.

She’d tried all the remedies, and trying them had kept her busy for a while. Some pills hadn't worked at all; the ones that had, only worked until she got used to them. A glass of wine at bedtime had made her feel zippy, not sleepy. A cup of warm milk had tasted unpleasantly of childhood and hadn’t slowed her mind down in the slightest. Reading had made her think, made her want restlessly to tell someone her ideas. Television kept her up all night, until it bored her too much to turn on anymore. Counting her breaths seemed simpleminded, laughable.

What she does now is, she just sees it through. She stays up through it. As long as it wants to keep her awake, she lets it, and when it gives up, she falls asleep without knowing when. She sits up in bed, looking at everything that exists around her. She waits it out, eyes open. There is no gimmick. She just sits with whatever is. It is crucial that she not get up.

Here she is, staring at her bookshelves, reading the titles from the other end of the room. She looks at the paint texture on the wall. She looks at the folds of the window curtain. She looks at the shadow of the door. She adjusts the comforter around her legs. She reaches her arm out and picks up the glass of water from the end table, takes a sip. She straightens her posture. She remembers her dead aunt. She refuses to think about her last lover. She vaguely plans her work for tomorrow. She bites her nails. She smooths her hair. She sits still and waits. It would never occur to her that what she is doing is brave.