Insomnia: A Short Story

The television’s on.

It’s freezing in here.

I should probably be asleep, but I’m not.

It’s 4:53. It’s always 4:53, when, click, the heat turns on.

Now the draft from the window’s competing with the dull heat, which smells like last years dust, pouring through the vent, above the door, which leads to the living room where the TV’s still on.

In about an hour the sun will be up and it will be another morning.

I can’t tell yet whether or not I’ll be excited or scared, but either way, I have to write my grandmother—thanking her for the letter she sent a couple days prior—she used to fill the cards with glitter but doesn’t anymore…

Perhaps there’s a glitter shortage, I don’t know.

I’ve been pulling my beard out again, which I don’t like, but still do. Why? A doctor would probably claim it’s nerves but by this point in life I know better than that.

It’s funny really, thoughts, how they come and go as easily as a hair can be plucked from your chin.

If I had eggs in the fridge I’d probably boil some for breakfast but I don’t have any because yesterday while shopping I’d debated prices in my head for what seemed like too long to be debating prices of eggs, causing an uncomfortable feeling I just couldn’t shake, making me anxious and aware that I’d been standing in the isle for what seemed like eons though was probably only a couple minutes, still, too long to be debating whether or not I wanted to pay 2.39 or 2.99 for a dozen of eggs.

The heat feels good now, while the right side of my face warms up, the left side is still dealing with the draft from the window.

Common sense tells me to close the window though my better judgement says to just let it be. What’s the point, really?

It’s 5:06 now. It’s always 5:06.

The repetitive nature of this statement keeps recurring in my mind as if the idea isn’t fully mine, though I use it anyway.

Perhaps it’s my conscious mind coming back to me? Perhaps it’s programming I just don’t have the strength to deny, either way…whatever.

It’s 8:08 on the East Coast. My mother’s probably pouring coffee, reading the morning news. My brother’s probably already dragged himself from bed and into work. My nephew’s to school. My sister-in-law to her studio where she makes jewelry from metal and her imagination.

Their routine gives me comfort because right now I don’t have one.

This pandemic has us all in a pretty weird state of affairs, though, my affairs have always been pretty weird now that I think about it.

At least I’m writing again. That’s good.

Everything is pretty all right right now—knock on wood.

And what if this is as good as it gets? Hog wash.

At least it’s warm in here, closing the window, watching the sun rise.

My nail beds are long. I’ve always been told that. “You’ve got piano hands,” they said once, go figure, I don’t play—if I did this would probably make for a better story though, well, you know.

Turning off the TV seems irrational as it’ll just get turned on again tonight, unless, unplugging the TV—Ah! That’s better.

Insomnia, it’s the breakfast of champions.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the letter.

to lose and to gain

We lose—only—what we must

allow ourselves to lose,

regardless of the pain

and suffering we choose, to lose

and to gain—

to have what it takes,

to further ourselves

to a better tomorrow.

Boba Raton, Joe.

How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel? For this average white guy, countless.

If I could go back, all those years, and stand next to twelve year old me, would I have the courage and strength to tell that nervous boy watching all the other children, swimming, laughing, and running—playing shirts v.s. skins—to quit worrying and join in, that it doesn’t matter how chubby you feel, or how different you look, that as long as you love and accept yourself, no words from another can harm you, or would I just sit back and watch, still the observer unable to join the party?

It’s funny how something so simple as taking your shirt off to swim can be so detrimental to a young child’s self esteem and yet as adults we often forget what that was like or rather what external forces beyond our control led us to believe ourselves unworthy of such a simple, yet harrowing task.

As in childhood, so as in adulthood, what we allow to harm us will.

Commercials show us long, slender, sleek models who seem to effortlessly fit in to their surroundings while being rewarded with warm smiles and admiration for seeming perfect.

Television shows and movies give us well manicured, quintessential versions of ourselves that often seem more like science fiction than what actually is.

Billboard ads and magazines are placed conveniently to fill all our psyche with blemish-less detail to promote this false sense of unattainable beauty that even when met, there’s ultimately an even whiter teeth formula, or wax to whisk away our imperfection.

It’s a cycle that even before the mind has time to develop, stunts it’s growth and like a cavity begins to decay all sense of self worth.

How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel?

For this average white guy, countless.

But it’s taken all those countless times to figure out that it doesn’t matter in the slightest, especially as a child who’s developing.

So would I tell that twelve year old me to take his shirt off and go swimming with the rest of the lot?

I don’t think there is a clear answer other than that instead of telling him what he should or shouldn’t do like all the rest of the world, I’d allow him the opportunity to listen to my story and decide for himself.

But I would say this. Chances are that boy or girl over there thinks there nose is too big or there ears are too small. Chances are that kid who cringes to put on his glasses everyday feels just like you do now, wondering what others will think of what makes him human.

Perhaps I’d reassure him that everybody has stretch marks, even the biggest, strongest athletes. Even his mother, and what could be more beautiful than sacrificing your physical form to grant another life?

But we all figure it out in our own time.

I know he did.

Clearwater Beach Florida

So it seems here, now, in the mornings clean light, where all that I can do is observe—in nature that surrounds—human nature take its course.

I spent a good portion of last night, mooring with the tide, tied to emotions, most of which surely weren’t mine to suffer, though, like a good little buoy I did all I could to stay afloat.

But what causes a man to harbor such feelings of faithless dread.

Sympathy? Empathy? Selfless, selfishness?

Isn’t it funny how even when no one asks us to suffer, we often choose to suffer.

Could it stem from guilt? Plausible, though I think not. Depression? No, because I could still move. Trauma? Not in this case, as it had nothing to personally do with me.

Perhaps than maybe deeper, beyond the physical self, far from age or reason, like roots grown deep within the soil, always there yet invisible to the naked eye.

So then what?

Let’s take the current state of society in which the mind is placed.

We are and always have been reactionary beings, jumping to conclusions without fully taking the time and energy to understand or explore where these irrational compulsions come from.

So the year is 2020 and we are still at one another’s throats.

Not a day goes by that I don’t get a phone call whether or not I am willing to vote. Not a day goes by that I don’t see one side of the argument ready and willing to cut the other’s throat. Not a day goes by where I don’t get the impression that peace is just dependent on war, like an inside joke I just don’t get the humor.

So it’s within this grey area that I swim where both sides of the equation continue to expel these deep seeded emotions from within.

Had it not been for the open minded, tirelessly educated guidance and good nature of a mother, I may have gone another way years ago, though still I stay afloat while the undertow continues its torment.

So it seems here, now, in the mornings clean light, where all that I can do is observe—in nature that surrounds—human nature take its course.

I know who I am. And I know my intentions are good. Sometimes our actions speak louder than words but for most of us, words just don’t seem to be heard.

But that’s no reason to destroy what you can’t control.

So for those who cannot express or explain this current state of extremes we face both alone and together, I suggest this: be a beacon of hope.

Because what we know today, with or without our help, will surely change tomorrow.

So even in my darkest hours, I know, hope will never falter, light will find a way, and tides will turn, if not now, then surely another day.

Alone and writing.

I believe, I believe, I believe in you

I’ve a laundry list of confessions

like the phases of the moon

Sometimes they pose a question

sometimes they propose two

I’ve got a long list of suggestions

to sink my teeth in to

Half the time full of dimension

still I love the dark side too.

Some people live by first impression

I tried but couldn’t resist

Tangled knots in life’s suspension

marionette’s even sometimes quit

Bottled up untapped aggression

like a dog in heat I bit

Every hand who fed I bargained

sold my soul for half a cent.

Sometimes I just don’t feel ok

when color seems to fade to gray

But even I knew better days

were drawn like window shades.

Put me on like a flannel

in the middle of May

Wear me out completely

with the words that you say

Today the sun is shining

brighter than yesterday

So strum these heart string chords

cause you know just what to play.

Blow me out like a candle

I’ll be your flickering flame

Tuck me in like a child

too old for past mistakes

Let me sing to you a while

and the words that I’d say

Light the sky like a storm

and your rain’s saving grace.

Sometimes I just don’t feel ok

and you tell me that that’s ok.

I believe, I believe, I believe in you

I believe in you everyday,

cause I believe you believe in me.

Tell me a story

There’s a part of me

that see’s this all clearly

like a child standing in a crowd

there’s really only one way out.

What is it that you see

it’s fine to disagree

why if the world’s mine oyster please

forgive me for the lack of belief.

I had this faith in you

I thought you had it too

how many smiles does it take to show

the unhappiness we grew to know.

Do you take this hand

would you understand

lighting matches just to prove you could

did it ever do you any good?

Tell me a story, one without love, cause it’s taken me for granted so many times—enough.

There’s a part of you

engrained in me now

I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit

it’s a piece I won’t ever regret.

So what’s the point of these prose

and insecurity poems

like a fish needs water to breathe

I guess it really isn’t up to me.

If this is just a passing feeling

I’ll agree to disagree then

watch the sun rise and fall once more

a couple hours then I’ll start the chore.

You see I know my problems

it’s not up to you to solve them

if I go out the Hemingway

like Kerouac first I’ll have my say so

Tell me a story, one without love, cause I’ve taken you for granted so many times—c’mon.

Tell me a story, one without love, cause it’s taken me for granted so many times—enough.

It’s all understandable. (for every no one who ever was)

To be honest

and be open

put yourself in

her hands like you’re a toy.

There’s a reason

for each season

pollen eaten

her wind cradles a boy.

They know nothing of us,

and we

know nothing of them.

We all

just sort of pretend.

We’re bitter still.

In the air there’s a bitter chill.

Like a car crash

I tell you that

it’s not too bad

we both just try not to stare.

In the glove box

there’s a snuff box

full of coupons

I keep in case that you cared.

The leaves on the ground,

remind me

how powerless that I am.

It’s natural to fall down,

we all

just sort of try to fit in.

Leave me alone, no don’t

leave me alone.

Memories fill my head

like waves

crashing down on the shore.

Just as soon as they hit

cast away

back to the ocean once more.

To be bitter

or be broken

understand that

this is for no one who ever was.

I’m wishing well in vain.

Take this pill

another one

you’ll see tomorrow

the rising sun

it washes over

everyone

regardless of their creed.

If I sang to you

in metaphor

or parable

I must implore

the meaning that

your searching for

exists only in faith.

So sure yeah I’ll

take half a drag

if you could promise

no aftermath

you’re a stupid kid

if you think that

anyone’s playing for keeps.

We called it love

but it was more

her beauty filled

my eyes with warmth

the tears that spill

are evermore

like leaves on the fall breeze.

If I told you once

I’d tell you twice

it’s meaningless

yeah my advice

it’s hogwash still

I swill it down

like champagne I am cheap.

There’s no reason to hang your head

Or spend all day in your bed

Because some things you can’t change

No matter what nothing is sane

No regret is meaningless

I mean the thought alone is evidence

That people never change

No matter how near or far away

And Ritalin works wonders for

The child who must be ignored

If the class is to progress

There’s no time to spare in jest

At first it feels like an accident

Then tragedy cranes her neck

It’s a problem you can’t solve

Because there’s nothing to be solved

Nobody gets quite what they deserve

A coin toss isn’t so absurd

If your winning it makes sense

If not you up your bet

You know that feeling in your head

The one that tells you you’re ahead

Before the obvious is said

Before the obvious is said

So

Take me with

a grain of salt

the shaker’s spilled

on everyone

who’s ever lost

or ever won

the menu’s all the same.

And I’ll take it now

for what it’s worth

this death I feel

as a rebirth

now everyone

I ever hurt

I’m wishing well in vain.

Nonsense

I was thinking how peculiar

right before I made a U turn

It was early Sunday morning

flashing sirens without warning

Looking both ways like a child

crossing with chicken on the road

there is this man who looks me up

and down as I begin to sigh

Then I look in both direction

turn the wheel with cruel intention

In the distance there’s this woman

picket signs read save the children

I am half way home before I know

exactly what I’m doing though I

stop the car unlock the door

and let the woman in

She sits criss-cross like a virgin

while I drive off she is urgent

I don’t know what you are thinking

she speaks softly without blinking

I was waiting for the bus when you

rolled up I must confess I recognized

your eyes from times gone by

like strangers on a train

It is awkward for a second

can I interest you in breakfast

She says sure she knows a diner

while she applies her eye liner

There’s a group of old men standing

with dead babies and demanding

that a women’s right is not all right

unless they’re in control

I’ll have coffee she’ll have coffee

yes please thank you two black coffee’s

In her teeth stuck there’s a poppy

seed my breath smells quite like onion

As the man from earlier walks by

the window just in time to see

again with no expression just a

long tedious sigh

He must think of me how boring

flashing sirens without warning

I feel seasick like a sailor

hey can you do me a favor

And that’s when she asks

to take her back in time for

her divorce of course she’d

first prefer some pie

On the drive home I was thinking

how peculiar she left winking

Shut the door then started walking

while I drove off she was talking

To the man who looked familiar

from the corner of my eye though

when I looked away then back again

they both just sort of sighed

Passing by the old cathedral

doors open releasing people

From their suffering they’re smiling

shaking hands exchanging sighs and

Across the street there’s signs

that read like jokes inside my mind

there’s men and women who protest

the earth is flat next to another group

who all claim there is no God.

a beautiful life.

At the end of this life

if you can say

I did some things

I really, really enjoyed

and helped some people

along the way

all the while

laboring loves labyrinth

then that

I’d say

is a beautiful life.