March 27, 2012


trying to go to bed at 10 after spending several weeks going to bed at 1 is the equivalent of normal people trying to fall asleep at 7 or 8 in the evening. well-intentioned but, I'm finding, impossible. my normal method for trying to overcome insomnia, particularly when I'm restless because of nerves, is to lie very still and count, slowly, to 300. I usually begin to nod off in the 90s and my counting gets all wonky and then, poof, I'm sleeping. the rule is, if I get to 300, I'm allowed to get up and do stuff for awhile because it's clear I'm not going to fall immediately to sleep. I remember the night I devised this: it was late august 2005, the night before I began working as the receptionist for a staffing agency. I was nervous and I didn't want to get up early the next morning, and I lay in bed forever and ever, fidgeting, unable to sleep. I thought, I'm never going to sleep if I can't stay still.

tonight I got to come home at a normal hour for the first time in nearly a week. I left the office at a quarter to five and I've been home ever since. after so many long days at work, the empty space is almost crippling. you get into this groove, even if it's exhausting, and popping out of it even for a day or two is a challenge. sometimes I work as much as I do just because it's easier to keep the momentum going. once I begin to slow down, it's hard to gear up again. tonight I watched the last episodes of the first season of game of thrones, and when I was finished I sort of scratched my head. washed some dishes, ate an egg sandwich. now what? there are a billion errands, but my car keeps stalling out and besides, don't I want to be home for half a second?

my edges are really frayed right now from so many weeks of long hard days. I'm lonely today, a rare emotion in an ordinarily solitary soul. my loneliness isn't about wanting company so much as it is about wanting a particular kind of company. I don't even want to talk; I just want to sit in companionable silence. want a little love, want to be understood. there isn't anything to appease it. I found myself earlier heaped in a ball on my bed, staring at the flower print on my duvet, saying dully to myself, "no one is going to save you from this feeling but you." if this doesn't sound like your idea of a fun night off, you're not alone.

the exterminator came for the ants today. afterwards my landlord sent me an email which contained a thinly veiled accusation that the ants were actually my own fault, which my logical brain recognizes as patently absurd (I am a very tidy person by nature, and besides, the ants have been here since my very first morning), but in my semi-frazzled emotional state I took the accusation to heart, and it upset me a lot. my landlord is kind of an uptight person, and I think she's been suspicious of me since our very first meeting, when, because scott was ungraciously kicking me out of his condo, I told her that I would rent the apartment sight unseen. it was in a neighborhood I liked, at a price I could afford, and I had nowhere else to go.

when I was a small child, my mother, my grandmother, and I lived in a rowhome in irvington, a suburb just outside baltimore city. we lived on the top floor, in what I remember to be essentially just a long hallway; my mother's bedroom at the top of the steps, and then the kitchen (where I have a vivid memory of standing on a chair in an apron, helping my mother at the stove). then my bedroom, with its yellow curtains, and then my grandmother's room at the end of the hall, its windows facing the street. at night, my grandmother would get into bed and then I would be expected to walk down the hall and kiss her goodnight. I was very young, 4 or 5. she would always put pond's cold cream on her face before she went to bed, and I would have to go and kiss her on her lotioned cheek. my memory of this was already quite vivid when last week, I bought myself a container of cold cream, because I've been experimenting with different ways of washing my face. in the bath one night I opened the container, and -- what a miracle our olfactory system is, and time such an illusion; there I was once again in that bedroom, the wooden headboard up against the wall, the light from the streetlamp shining through the window, my grandmother in bed before me. those are the streetlamps I still picture when I remember my mother reading to me from robert louis stephenson's a child's garden of verses, her favorite of the verses being the one called "the lamplighter."

a writing teacher in college, having encountered my grandmother in a story I wrote once about the way she ate asparagus at dinner (horrifyingly), encouraged me to write about her at greater length. we lived with my her until I was 12. although everyone in the family called her 'grams,' I always called her 'ma,' which, to my constant frustration, she always pretended was really 'mom.' I only ever used 'ma' when I spoke to her, never when I spoke about her. she died in 2007, and it just struck me for the very first time that my usage of 'ma' is dead forever alongside her. good god, life. doesn't everyone die at last, and too soon.

it's 11:11 now. there are so many things to wish for. sleep chief among them.

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