I've always wanted to be someone who slept well. Lately, 4a.m., when the light is already a wet blue through the windows, is the beginning of my day. I have nothing to do this early, but everything to think about. I am up because I'm my mother's daughter. She does the same thing. I'm also up because there are more things that keep me awake than those that put me to sleep. If there were an antonym for lullaby, I would use it here. The morning is a series of stimulants and shufflings that begin with the slow, weighted creaking of the upstairs floorboards while the tenants pour their coffee, feed their old dog, Crow, and get ready to be in their boat for four days. Sometimes I can smell the slightest hints of chocolate and toast while I'm still in bed, and instead of rolling over, I lie there thinking, "is that coffee or chocolate and if I want toast, do I have to walk to the store to get some bread today?" Then I think, am I honestly thinking about this at 4 in the morning and what's wrong with me?
Then I think about if I'll go into town for a mocha this afternoon and if I'm in town, if I should bring my interviews to transcribe them, and if I'm doing that, I might as well go to the library and get Trespass, a book on my to-read list about the desert and a Mormon and how religion and environmentalism might save the orange canyons near Green River where I almost, one hot summer, ran out of gas, and can religion or environmentalism really save what's still naturally orange and, come to think of it, what if I'd run out of gas?
What gets me out of bed is a "give a mouse a cookie" set of incentives, not necessarily good or bad, but so connected to memories and necessities and tasks that rely on other tasks, that my time with my brain translates into time to get away from it, so lying in bed longer is an against-the-grain, ugly option. I sling my legs out of the sheets and reach for my knee-length sweater and woolsmart socks. I start the tea. If I could be different, I would move more and think less. I would transform rhetorical questions into rhetoric. It's getting colder, says the morning. Not yet, my summer-loving insides insist.
There's another thing. Some mornings after the fishermen leave, I could go back to sleep if I tried hard enough to not think. But when I do force myself back to sleep, I keep having this recurring dream/state of semiconsciousness where I'm in the room, lying in bed, and I can't move. The first time this happened to me, I thought I was paralyzed. My eyes were wide open, and one corner of the dark blue curtain was folded under itself like a bird's wing at rest. I remember I looked at this small detail so I could test if I was awake, like I was pinching myself. I tried to lift my head, but I felt this immense weight pressing down all over me, like an invisible and immovable person had spread themselves, heavy and dead, on top of the blanket.
I tried harder to move. All I could do was shift my eyeballs from the closet to where my feet lay lumpy and lame. I seemed to go back to sleep. I opened my eyes and it happened again even though this time, I tried to wriggle from side to side to wrench myself from whatever it was that had trapped me either in a dream that looked like my room or my room that had become a frozen state of awakeness. It was nauseatingly warm and the compulsion to move was terrifyingly urgent, like I'd slept through my alarm, only it was an alarm to save the world. That bad.
The next time I opened my eyes, I hinged my upper body upwards so fast I saw little lights flitting like perforation lines on the walls and in front of the open window. These little dashes moved where my eyes moved, and my heart was banging behind my sternum, and I was thinking, I am going to keel over, and I've never even known what the word "keel" actually means.
After three or four of these incidences, I started looking and I found someone else who had the same experiences. She'd done an interview with Ira Glass on This American Life. I listened and it was the exact same sensations I'd had: she woke up, like a life had been pushed down on her, felt that she had lost the use of her limbs, and wrestled to get free until she either did or she woke up. It was unclear whether time or effort had resurrected her.
She, like me, has had this happen multiple times, and as you would in a lucid or recurring dream, you make yourself aware of your own awareness: you look at the folds in the curtain, you chronicle your foiled attempts at moving--the neck didn't work, the fingertips didn't work, nope, not the toes either--then you say to yourself, I am stronger than this feeling and I'm getting up now, no, for real, right ... NOW. But that doesn't work, either. The word mire sounds as seriously stuck as you feel.
I wanted to find some commiseration or some tricks for untangling myself online, but the interview made no conclusion as to whether the girl had been asleep or awake. She's from a Mexican family and a relative, who seemed to be religious or a carrier of myths or both, told her, "Oh. That heaviness? That's the devil sitting on your bed." Oh. That. So much for consolation!
I haven't had one of those dreams(?) for a while now because I don't stay in bed long enough to tempt them. There's too much day, good or bad, to be had. None of these feelings are really recent. I think we are born to the morning or the night. I used to watch Rocky and Bullwinkle before the sun or my parents rose. I found out my friend did, too, and she became my best one. I've always felt a sisterhood with women out walking or drinking coffee or bending over for the paper in the low-lying blue, undeterred by the silence and aloneness of early morning.
I am, on the other hand, jealous of Luke, who falls asleep in public and snores like an old truck. My life would be easier if I had a relationship with sleep like I do with the dawn.
This morning, I was lying there thinking about my dying grandpa and the trash I need to bring down to the harbor because of the bear ordinance (no trash out until Tuesday). I guess it's a good thing that the mind makes no priorities of its musings--the brain brings issues of all weights to the surface, one after another. It's the decisions we make that organize them. Love and death and garbage are what brought me into today. I've gotten some small things done and thought about bigger ones. I've been awake for six hours and it's only 10 o'clock.