These past few days found me bedridden with a busted gut. Naturally I’ve rested pretty heavily. Full nights of sleep each day topped off with a nap for good measure, I was hoping for a speedy return. Instead I got restless.

I remember as a kid, spooked by a nightmare running to my parents room and finding my dad reading in the middle of the night. His excuse being he’d just happened to wake up and couldn’t sleep so he figured he’d read to pass the time. Looking back I wonder if he was just biding time, having not slept a wink while his mind raced in methodical circles.

Getting older I developed a dread of laying my head down for the night only to discover that despite being prostrate in full resting repose, every other part of me was awake, panicking at the march of time and the loss of sleep. Watching all my precious Z’s drift through my fingers like a handful of sand.

Older still there was an anxiety to sleeplessness: Feeling bound to wakefulness by an unrelenting spring of energy with an indiscernible source. It was raw and charged but with its familiarity came a fresh understanding of what was up. My mind was as a hamster in a wheel and I just needed to let it go til it wore itself out.

These random episodes of insomnia aren’t as frequent as they once were, but I still know what they’re about and get a nostalgic enjoyment when they decide to visit. At about 2 a.m. I start to wonder why I’ve got a steady stream of hyper visceral memories flooding my thoughts; At 3 I give it my last earnest effort and bury my head beneath the sheets; And around 4 I defer to that mysterious running of the hamster.

This morning my hamster told me to go for a ride. So I did, and like my mind I decided riding a big old circle would do it justice. It was my first time in a very long while I elected to ride (stone sober) at 4 a.m. and I’ve got to say it was a great time to get out.

For one, the city’s in limbo and feels like it’s an overlap of two great plays: One exiting stage left in a drunken soliloquy, shooed off by the beleaguered 烧烤 guy. The other marching in from stage right waving a 油条 while heralding the unfolding of a new day. More importantly, these characters are exceedingly rare at this hour of the day and truth be told the city feels more like a freshly abandoned ghost town.

It’s a time to take in the sounds of crickets and their little one-man fiddle bands and of the harsh buzzing of other insects just trying to get laid. It’s cooler and the air’s laden with the humidity that for the remaining 92% of the day just really pisses me off. Without the fumes and general stank of people and cars and everything else in the active hours of daylight, you can breath deep the heavy scents of the all the wonderful plants. It’s lovely, really!

So these are the things that sleeplessness allow me to take in. And these are the things that each time that flitter of a thought comes in the middle of the night there’s but a little hope I won’t be nodding off soon. As I lay my weary head upon my pillow sometimes I imagine a little baby carrot, a treat to coax out the hamster, an invitation to explore the quiet wildness of the night where I can let my mind run and run and run.


  1. Karen Mc

    My mind was running last night. Playing out the scenarios that plague me during waking hours, on into the wee hours. I find myself tossing and turning. Then doing it some more. Nighttime has a habit of making wee problems not so wee and solutions harder to find. So on comes the light and out comes the book. Problem is, I’m too tired to read, I can only play the movie over and over in my head and when I get to the end of the page have to go back and read it again. Not much helps. Just waiting for the weariness to overtake. I think about driving long distance and instantly that moment comes where you think you can’t keep your eyes open to drive any longer. But you do. And then it passes and 12 hours later you’re wide awake and wondering. The mind is a funny thing. The tricks it plays. The circles it repeats. The endless knowledge that you know it’s happening but there’s absolutely nothing that can be done. Such is a cycle of a sleepless night for me.

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