17 February 2008

While You Were Out

I love sleep. Always been a big fan of it. Unlike my sisters, who when we were growing up would bargain for later and later bedtimes, I never had one. This always confused the babysitter greatly, but my parents' insistence that I had enough sense to go to bed when I got tired usually proved true. At least during my childhood, anyway.

Somewhere during high school, I developed a love/hate relationship with sleep. Stage crew ran late, to nine, ten, sometimes eleven o'clock (on a school night!) and I had to be up at six to get to school on time. Late nights was when things got interesting--when my friends got original, creative, and sometimes illegal bugs up their butts, our parents went to sleep, friendships were forged and romances ignited. And, of course, there was homework to be done. Theoretically. I subconsciously became afraid that if I fell asleep on someone's couch/floor/lap/diner booth, I would miss something. This was likely based in firm reality, as I have a long-reaching history of being the first one to fall asleep at slumber parties and midnight gatherings. (One group of friends scattered across the country has begun to keep a scrapbook of photos from our somewhat annual gatherings at people's homes; every last one of them features at least one shot of me, asleep on the floor, while conversation rages around me. Enough so that renaming this blog Floors I Have Slept On would not be entirely inaccurate, if somewhat ungrammatical.)

Still, I adore my sleep. For a while in my twenties, this combination made me the worst of all possible things: a late sleeper. Saturdays I could sometimes sleep until noon and still wake up only from guilt at knowing what time it was. I hated it. Somewhere inside me was a morning person, waiting to be released from this bizarre ritual. It didn't help that I dated a series of night owls and insomniacs, starting with my first serious boyfriend. Even my best friend, who loved to rise at the ungodly hour of 5:30 to walk the dog and listen to the BBC, was an insomniac and could often be found roaming the house at midnight. The one morning he slept until quarter past eight, I was afraid to go in and check on him because I thought he might have died during the night.

And then there was my husband, who fell into sleep like dropping off the edge of a cliff. I used to tease him that he had two speeds: fast, and off. He would stay awake for hours into the night, sometimes days at a time, but when sleep came, it would take him in the middle of sentences, sometimes in the middle of words. And Lord knows there was no waking the man. Getting him out of bed and functional enough to light a cigarette was a ritual as drawn-out as a Japanese tea ceremony.

He was an entertaining sleeper, too, with vivid dreams that sometimes involved him spouting out dialogue for all the anthropomorphic characters, and acrobatics that more than once left me with interesting bruises to explain to friends. Sleep for him was in intricate dance of elbows and gangly limbs thrown wide, long hair strewn wildly across all our pillows, humping up under the blankets like a turtle, and something we used to refer to simply as "The Leg." The Leg was something to see, all right, not only for its cranelike humour, but also for its sheer flexibility. There was, quite simply, nothing this man would not do in his semi-conscious search for ORSP. (Optimal Rest and Sleeping Position, if you have to ask.)

These days I sleep alone, tweaking my nocturnal schedule so I'll have time to myself in the mornings and the evenings after my parents retire. I'm reverting to my morning-person schedule, though I still resent the alarm those days it reminds me that I'm only up because I have obligations that aren't to myself. I'm not lonely when I wake curled on my side of the bed, usually with a couple of cats strewn about in positions of utter somnolence. It's the nights that get to me. I still lie awake in the dark, listening for the cadence of his breathing, thinking about impossible fish missions and those ridiculous involuntary twitches that used to overcome him and scare the crap out of me, and waiting for the return of The Leg.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely gentle read with plenty of smiles along the way.

And thank you for reminding me of a delicious word I'd long forgotten -somnolence!

Anonymous said...

This was a heartfelt, real and incredibly well-written read that had my heart. An expanse of a life was shared in a nugget of thoughts and it left me somber and thoughtful, yet brilliantly entranced. thank you for sharing.

p.s. I too have trouble with accepting that I am actually at this moment living in the garden state!

myrtle beached whale said...

Very well written. I love my sleep too.

Tumblewords: said...

Lovely post - well-written and thoughtful as well as streaked with humor!

Anonymous said...

I like the humour in this post. Thanks for a good read!

snooze time, baby!

Stacy said...

I know exactly how you feel and I hope that the lonely goes away someday.

Great read.

Deirdre said...

The nighttime rituals are so hard to unlearn. This was a wonderful, rich read.