February 9, 2006

25: Fire

We walked back and went with a group to dinner at a little French crepe place. Sara said to Jack, “Do you want to sit across from your wife?” and we laughed and I said, “Oh, we just met yesterday.”

One of the guys—one of my guys that I would spend the week hanging out with—Paul, is a doctor. A plumber, he says. A proctologist. One of our dinner-mates, Greg, upon realizing he had the captive audience of a proctologist, launched into a long and detailed story involving kidney stones, shunts, catheters, an intern, and no anesthetic. I needed sleep. My exhaustion hit me full force when I sat down. The noise of the conversation was too much for me. The shunts were too much for me. I alternately cringed quietly and put forth a great deal of effort to be pleasant to what I’m sure was little effect.

After dinner the group headed into town to walk around and hang out, and I begged off to try to get more sleep and maybe feel better tomorrow. I felt a bit fragile. And while I was frustrated to not be able to go with them, I felt full of all the goodness of the day.

I’ve not slept well for so long that I no longer really know how to fall asleep. My exhausted body doesn’t actually get sleepy anymore, perhaps because I’ve had to fight being tired so much to get through the days that my brain’s reaction to being worn out is to send adrenaline to stem the tide. So I lay in bed and alternately sink into sleep and jerk awake in what feels like panic. But mostly I lay in bed awake, thinking about things, waiting for sleeping pills to kick in.

The pills themselves are tricky. I don’t like that they have control over me, that they can make me do things I cannot do on my own. I hate taking them. Monday night, I took one, hoping it would be enough to guide me into a sleep I’d be able to sustain on my own. It didn’t work.

Sometimes when I have trouble sleeping I imagine that there are demons assigned to me, like Screwtape, poking my soul with a big, mean stick as I begin to drift off. They were active this evening, poking away, keeping me desperately awake.

Two sleeping pills generally make me sleep soundly until about 9:30 the next morning, and leave me with a general grogginess that takes sometimes a day or even two to shake. But at 12:30 a.m., I didn’t have a choice, so I popped another blue pill and felt myself being pulled lovingly into sleep’s warm depths. I had completely given in and the demons were quiet. I was beginning to think everything would be fine. And then the fire alarm went off.

I lay in bed hoping it was a joke, but when it continued, I grabbed my white hoodie and climbed down the iron spiral fire escape just outside my door.

The back lawn was full. I lurked in the back of the crowd, trying not to wake up all the way. But when I spotted Jack and Paul and Simon and Jesse I joined the fun—after all, it was 12:30 and we were in our pajamas. Jack touched my arm and said, “Nice stripes,” and I just wanted to curl up with him and be cozy.

For an hour it was like college. Paul kept getting calls on his cell phone from friends and kept saying, “I’m in England! Do you know what time it is here?” And as a group we decided that Jack should make reparations for something—the Scandinavians and their pillaging, I think—which was all terribly funny because by that point, it was around 1 a.m. and I had had two sleeping pills.

When they finally let us back in, I was too shy to find Jack and say goodnight. I saw him looking around, maybe for me, and thought, sheesh. I need a remedial class in dating. Or maybe just talking to boys.


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