By the time I get to the doctor’s office, I have gone 56 hours without sleep.
Well, that depends on how you define sleep. I define it by hours of being conscious, though for the last nine of these hours, things have felt less and less real. Things blur together. Things are in a fog in my periphery and don’t come together until they’re staring me back in my face. Is that consciousness?
“Insomnia can be hard to treat,” says the doctor. “We can obviously start you on medication. But the root causes can be harder to pinpoint. It can often be psychosomatic.”
He has a long beard and tiny glasses. He looks like a philosopher.
So I’m psycho. Psychosomatic. It’s all in my head.
“It’s all in my head,” I say.
The doctor’s tiny eyes become tinier behind his tiny glasses.
“What’s all in my head?”
“I’m sorry?” asks the doctor.
“What’s all in my head? What’s wrong with me?”
The doctor hesitates.
“I would like to refer you to our behavioral health department. They will have the best resources to assess you.”
“Okay,” I agree. “When is the appointment?”
“They’ll call you.”
Not soon enough.
I cry in the bathroom for two hours after the doctor’s appointment, which turns out to be eight minutes. Time feels very superficial without having sleep to measure it. When there’s something wrong with your head, time doesn’t make sense.
Though I suppose time is all in our heads too. One day we decided to give a passing moment of time meaning. An hour has more worth than a second. Even though some seconds have much more meaning than some hours.
The second I fall asleep will mean much more than the hours I am awake.
I am aware that I am crazy. But no one is telling me what with. How am I supposed to get better from everything that’s all just in my head if I don’t know how it all got in my head to begin with?
The neighbors have friends over that evening. I hear them through the wall as I don’t sleep for another ten hours.
One of them is a girl who has gotten in a fight with her boyfriend. He calls and she ignores the call. She laughs as she ignores him, and they all do a few rounds of shots.
“I hate when he’s like this,” I hear her say.
She becomes louder. She laughs. She drinks. She cries. Drinks again. She laughs.
Eventually she is screaming. She calls him back. I can hear her as if she has come to bed with me.
“Sorry I missed your call,” she yells. “I didn’t hear my phone, the party was too loud.”
The world is silent around her.
“I love you too,” she says softly.
This is the passing of time. Not in seconds but between extremes.
The sun rises a bit after this. I am glad to have not spent the night alone.
How can I sleep when life speeds on around me? How can I willingly confine myself to the past, to emerge years behind when I wake up? How many loves, hates, tears, and kisses can a person choose to miss?
I have started seeing a man out of the corner of my eye and he makes me feel less lonely.
In my head, I hear the man in the corner of my eye say, “I’ve been here before.”
I hear the man in the corner of my eye say, “Things will get better.”
I hear the man in the corner of my eye say, “Get over yourself and get to sleep.”
I hear the man in the corner of my eye say, “Is this a life worth living?”
The man in the corner of my eye says a lot of things that I have thought before. It is nice to hear your thoughts out loud. It is nice to have another person affirm your existence.
My apartment used to be full of life. I was there, and he was there. But that’s over now and I don’t want to bore the man in the corner of my eye with these details. The man looks rather bored already.
I feel so tired and I feel so awake.
When I was younger, I had bad night terrors. I dreamed of being beaten, over and over, by people I had loved at different times. Someone who I trusted would kick me repeatedly in the head: an ex from high school, my brother, a coworker.
I felt deep in the dream, like I was up to my waist in mud, my mind aware I was in a dream and my body imprisoned.
When I would finally wake up, I would be untouched, unbruised. Like the way he hit me.
But we don’t talk about that, we don’t talk about that. We don’t speak ill of the dead.
He was dying and he wanted to pull me down with him. That’s why he hit me. I wouldn’t want to be alone in that either.
He isn’t here but he feels here, perhaps now more because I have no reason to wish him not to be. It’s all very confusing. I could never trust my head.
The doctor was right. Everything is in my head. I tend not to live outside of it.
The neighbors are watching court TV. Someone has borrowed a car and crashed it. Then, someone wants her jewelry back from her ex’s house. Then, someone wants $400 in unpaid babysitting fees.
“She’s so annoying,” one of them says. No one agrees.
“She’s so annoying,” they try again. I wonder if it’s in reference to the show or someone else.
Maybe I’m the annoying one, for listening in. For inserting myself into a room that has excluded me.
I show up often where I’m not wanted, I think.
The man in the corner of my eye walks around my garbage for seven minutes with an imperceivable expression.
I lie in bed until the sun moves from one window to another. I’m hungry.
I don’t feel like working the stove. It seems too complex. I put on my shoes and go outside.
It normally takes me 20 minutes to walk to the grocery store. It takes much longer today. Or maybe it doesn’t. I don’t really care. It’s so humid that I feel like I’m treading water.
I purchase a loaf of bread and a single cup of yogurt. Cherry yogurt. The cashier tells me the price but I can’t hear her.
The fog outside seems to have fallen on the grocery store. All of the sounds are distant. Everything moves a bit slower.
The display on the register says $4.35. I swipe my debit card.
How much time has this taken? Will the doctor call me today? When did I eat last?
The questions carry me back home, and I eat.
The neighbors have someone over. A man. He laughs very loudly. Especially after something he says.
“That’s what I mean!” Laugh.
“You know?” Laugh.
“I can’t believe it!” Laugh.
He punctuates himself. He defines his own moments with a laugh.
My spoon hits the bottom of the cup of yogurt. I feel like sighing for a few seconds. I step around the man in the corner of my eye and place the empty cup in the trash.
When will this all be over?
I wonder about tomorrow. Maybe the doctor will call tomorrow. Or maybe I will go out to the store again. Maybe the neighbors will have someone over again, someone who will keep me company at night. Maybe tomorrow I will keel over in exhaustion. Or maybe I will come out on the other side tomorrow, feeling refreshed without sleep. Tomorrow this plague of days will be cast out.
“Is this a life worth living?” Laugh.
“Things will get better.” Laugh.
“When will this all be over?” Laugh.
Tomorrow seems impossibly far. I am so tired now. Tomorrow seems like a wish, like a fantasy written between the lines of dream. Tomorrow isn’t coming. Tomorrow has already come. A today is no different than a tomorrow. Or perhaps a tomorrow is today. They all sound right because they all sound wrong. Tomorrow is fake, after all. Tomorrow is fake after all?
Tomorrow? Tomorrow! Tomorrow tomorrow. Tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow tomorrow, tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow. Tomorrow tomorrow.
If tomorrow is real, tomorrow I will sleep. Laugh.
The man in the corner of my eye pulls up a chair, puts his head on the table, and falls asleep.