Insomnia arrives and wants to wear you like a skin. All night long, she pushes up through your feet, your knees, asserts herself in soft but scheming caresses on your ribs, tries to spread apart your chest and reattach it on her own. She is rough lace rubbing on the surface of your brain, pulling at your skull in the middle of the night for hours until finally, she relents–only to shove you awake again in the dark of morning with a kick to the shin. Hey, she says. Think about this. You tell her, Go away, and roll over, bring the sheet and pile of blankets to your ears, shove your head into the belly of the stuffed dog you stole from your brother when you were kids.
But Insomnia slides over and spoons with you, fitting her thin and agitated body against yours–it’s just a ruse, so she can get at your spine, work the knobs of bones like buttons, unfastened one by one. Remember when you did this today, she says. Uh-huh, you say, and let her weave her tale as she moves from neck to hips, fingers splitting skin. This would be great, she says, and this would not be, and just for good measure, let’s sing a song! You sing together, and all the while, feel her undoing you. Until again, you say, Go away. I need to sleep. For a few blissful seconds, she is silent, but this is only because she’s ruminating on what to say next.
Let’s think about everything that happened today, she says, and all the implications of each of those actions, and what they might bring about tomorrow, and tomorrow. You tell her, Shut up, and Insomnia begins to hum. For a moment, you wonder if this is how people feel when they’re around you, and you start to hum–you’ve become a hummer in recent months, and no one has yet to tell you if this is endearing or annoying–but you shake your head. Five a.m. is not the time for self-deprecative psychoanalysis. You try to appeal to Insomnia with reason: I’m sick, you say, and clutch your sore throat, making a pitiful face. But she has her hands beneath the skin of your back now, slides in her arms, and wraps them around your shoulders. She says, On a scale of one to ten, how bad of a sin do you think this would be? And though you only have a vague idea of what she’s talking about, you begin to calculate.
You calculate and consider in a half-awake state, alternately dreaming, mentally singing. Insomnia has her legs in you and is performing the final tug to shove in her torso. This gives you visions of your old apartment, movie stars, your parents, cats, people you talked to last week. Once she’s in all the way, she starts to sew you back up, and then, more humming. Dawn begins to peer through your blinds, though it’s a gray dawn because Portland has remembered its real climate–rain. When your alarm goes off, you slap it silent and lie still, staring at the ceiling, even though you’ve been awake now for hours, and so, have been doing this long enough. You pull the sheets over your head one final time as Insomnia nuzzles with your muscles, taking on the shape of your bones.
Blankets tossed back, you fall out of bed, feeling like a dirty sponge, and when you go to the bathroom, note your mop of greasy hair and parched skin, reddened from sleep deprivation, you see that you also look like a dirty sponge. And though your nose is stuffed-up from sickness, you suspect you smell like a dirty sponge as well. But why should you shower? You’ll be dragging yourself through a six-mile run in eight hours, and no one will see you before then. Or smell you. The only good thing about last night is that you seem to have lost two pounds. You take this small victory with you as you walk into the kitchen to make coffee.
Mug in hand, breakfast in stomach, you sit at your desk and try to read emails, to form coherent thoughts, but no. Your brain is now silent, and you think, Where is Insomnia in all of this? She’s sewn up your seams and made a nest in your belly, where she’s sleeping soundly and will, until night stalks back around, and again, you’ll slide beneath the blankets. Then like a fitful child, Insomnia will awake, climb out of you, and take up her post in your bed. Wind her legs around your waist, she’ll run her fingers through your hair, dig a nail at the thread on the crown of your scalp–and pull.