It’s 1:50 AM, I am awake, and I am hungry. I want to sleep, but I don’t want to eat. I turn over, I shut my eyes, I put a pillow between my knees. Why is this every night? I already weigh too much.
I go downstairs and eat. I eat a granola bar, then a nature’s valley cookie, then a package of dried seaweed. It’s always too much or too little. I want to not have reflux when I lie down. I want to sleep through the night. I’m supposed to wake up at 3:50, but I don’t want to wake anyone up, and I want to go back to sleep. I put on sleep music.
I wake up to my alarm an hour and twenty minutes later. Someone has snuggled to me from behind. Is it my daughter Olivia, is she in our bed? It’s not a fair skinned blonde little girl, it’s a woman, with dark hair and nut brown skin. It’s my wife, Concetta. Does this cuddle mean she’s forgiven me? Does this mean she’s mine again? Does this mean the fight’s over?
I want to sit up but I can’t. I get my phone and try to wake. My eyes stay open while my phone is on. I feel mushy behind my eyes, slow. I felt the front of my face. I take my medicine and drink my 4 hour energy. I close my eyes, but don’t sleep.
I wake again a few minutes later, and look through my phone some more. Someone replied on Twitter to a reposted story with a red face, clenched teeth and a sweaty brow emoji. Is this good? He liked the story, or maybe he liked the gif associated with it. The emoji doesn’t say.
I turn on my headspace app and listen to the exercise for listening to the quiet. I sit up in bed, cross legged. The app tells me to feel the silence, to not wait for it to end, but to experience it. I attend to my body. There’s an ache in my mid back, the type I associate with being old and breaking down. It’s probably a correlate to my desk work, the overstrained left psoas that compensates for my right shoulder’s mouse work. Or, it’s from running, reflecting the slant on the road that truncates my left foot strike and elongates my right foot strike.
I open my mouth and stretch out my lips and my tongue. I feel my consciousness in my lips. I open my jaw wide and make the lion’s face. I remember my voice, how I always spoke too softly, I said, “but, um …” too many times, how this became a popular part of the impression my fraternity brothers used to mock me in college. I remember the jobs I didn’t get because the interviewers didn’t think I sounded very confident. I remember Concetta telling me that I bowed to everyone too much. I remember putting marbles in my mouth, running through Queens, and speaking loudly while enunciating against the marbles when I would reach an unpopulated section.
Then I remember being called arrogant, too loud, too brash, cocky, described as someone who thinks he’s worth a lot more than he is. Someone who makes things up when he doesn’t have something to say. Someone who should just say he doesn’t know if he doesn’t know something.
I return to my breath. I should be waking up more by now. Was I wasting my time writing? Should I be studying more, working out more? Does anyone care what I do?
Concetta stirs in bed, making concerned sounds. I stroke her hair and her shoulder, her face, and she quiets. I remember to enjoy the quiet. The app tells me that I needn’t wait for “me time,” that our selves are always present, even in the in-between times.
I think about my story, whether I should try and finish it. It’s gotten fairly dark. I want to put enough content from my own life and childhood that I can reflect the intention of the character, Bruno, to represent my lonely, isolated adolescent self, someone with potential wandering through a world alone. I want to show the violence he does to himself in his self talk and his self concept, his endless recriminations and self flagellation, without further bogging down an already ponderous storyline.
But my assignment this week is to be introspective, to search for what my body is saying, what the child is saying. This is also how I want to end Bruno’s story, with his child consciousness saving his deranged adult self. The answers are all there, it’s only a matter of listening.
My meditation ends, and I stand up, creeping downstairs in the dark. Today will be better, I say to myself. Today I’ll listen.