Insomnia has stricken me lately. Three hours, five hours, two hours of sleep a night. This morning in New York City, I woke up at four, fiddled on the Internet for a couple of hours, couldn’t get back to sleep. I went to a deli looking for the Times. I looked at the newspaper selection. They didn’t have it. They had the Post and the Daily News and some other rag.
“Do you guys have the Times,” I asked, after waiting a couple minutes in line behind a guy getting coffee.
“No, we don’t.” This is like asking the people at SAKS 5th Avenue if they carry Kate Spade handbags. Or some other such New York metaphor. Insomnia does weird things to your head.
The second deli did have the Times and I paid my $5 and smoked a cigarette walking back to what is now “my” apartment, even though my friend and sexual associate (FaSO) is just doing me a favor while I get on my feet for my new job, my new life, career… anyway, that part is not of interest yet. I smoked a cigarette is the point. And I coughed my morning cough and spit phlegm on the sidewalk, if not directly at the pigeons then at least in their general direction. The sun continued coming gently up, sidewalks speckled with mysterious puddles; scaffolding bracing the small, wanna-be-Manhattan-but-really-just-Brooklyn buildings; police officers parking on the main drag and getting out of their cruisers for purposes never to be divined; fellow early risers, scant on a Sunday morning, peopling the avenue, doing God knows what.
The crossword was easy, but I couldn’t think straight and was missing the marquee theme answer, and I put it directly over my face, Times magazine and all, as the sun was beaming through the curtains and the living room was getting light… and I said, “Sleep, Tom. Listen to the cars and trucks and early morning horns. Do not think about panic attacks and various failures. Like the immovable object confronted with the all powerful force, force yourself to move. Or at least go to fucking sleep.” Which I tried and which did not work because of the aforementioned insomnia. And so again.
I took a bit less than a teaspoon of Nyquil, got a bit more done on the puzzle, and crawled back into bed. The woman I love rolled over, I mentioned that I couldn’t sleep. I climbed out her window for a cigarette. On my awkward way back in, I knocked the fan onto her ankle, hurting her. I apologized and kissed her cheeks and apologized again.
Nyquil put me out for an hour and a half. I dreamt that I was in an episode of the television show Community, and that its creator, Dan Harmon, had created the ultimate self-referential psycho-comedy in which you, the viewer — which in this case was me — watched through a computer with your online and personal history intact, and that it all came back to you being the center of attention. Kevin, who I worked with at a flower shop when I was in high school, was there with me and the viewer, being Kevin, only his voice was overdubbed for TV — which I knew in the dream, and which of course only spoke to the brilliance of Harmon’s creation. The only trouble was that eventually the feedback loop went out of control. Eventually everything was so self-referential that I expected Ursula, who is a Facebook friend with whom I haven’t spoken in years, to be in my parents’ attic acting post-modernly disappointed that I could intend to vote for a person as phony as Barack Obama. I remember knowing that the Kazakh guy I’m selling my book business to would park in his car in the middle of a blizzard and be unable to open his door due to a snow drift. It was all “written” in this bizarro world dream episode of a television show that portrayed none of the characters the television show actually does, none of the plot points, and none of the settings. Because all of the characters were people I knew, all of the plot points were mangled memories and projections, and all of the settings were absurd. And all of it made absolutely no sense, except in the sense that I knew, by the fourth time, exactly what was happening and I forced my sleeping self to stop dreaming, to wake up. In the dream, I did this by shaking my head as hard as I could. By headbanging myself out of the cycle of self-referentiality. It’s a hard spell to break.
The whole thing was set to a soundtrack, and I had it still this morning, but I’ve lost it now. Ask the woman I was with; she might be able to tell you. It was four bars long, started with a couple quarters, had a triplet or two, went back into eighths and then modulated. Or something. “That,” I said to her, as I came out of the dream, “was the most fucked up dream I’ve ever had.” And then I hummed her the song. And she asked me if it was already a song. And I said, “No.”
“It sounds kinda like Seinfeld,” she said.
We drove home later to ditch my car. This is my last night in Boston, and Alison is sleeping and probably sick of the clitter clatter of the keyboard and the chainsmoking (which is not allowed in “our” “new” apartment, thank God). Tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, New York is the new home base, and cars are just a hassle here. See? I said “here.” I meant “there,” because tonight I’m in Boston, but as of now, it’s “here” where I’ll be. And “here” is New York. And everywhere else is where I end up.
Welcome home. Now go get some sleep.