When I was 18 months old and napping one day, my aunt felt compelled to hold a mirror to my mouth to check my breathing and find out if I was still alive. I slept that deeply.
When I was an adolescent, my sister once poured a glass of water on my face while I was asleep. I didn’t wake up. This proved her hypothesis.
When I was in my thirties, two squalling babies kept me from REM sleep for a total of six years. I did not hurt them. They will make it up to me in my dotage by bringing me hazelnut lattes at The Home and helping me to change the channel when “The Price Is Right” is over.
As it turns out, too many people messed with a good thing.
Crushingly, this week, I can’t sleep.
Insomnia is largely unknown to me; ever since I first pledged to life and passed the initial hazing of swallowing multiple bowls of gummy rice cereal while strapped to a chair, sleep has been one of my favorite sorority sisters in the Delta Delta Gamma house.
But this week, sleep is a mo-fo, and it is my foe.
I know the cause of my open eyes. I know why my brain races. I know from whence my anxiety stems.
It’s a student, of course. I’d love to disclose all sorts of juicy details, but I daresay that’s unethical, even for someone of loose ethics like me. An abbreviated, anonymity-preserving profile of him might read: “batshit, narcissistic, delusional, illogical, excuse-making, sweet, sad, and, oh, yes, most likely alcoholic.”
All of you who have met this person in his many forms on the planet are nodding knowingly right about now, ja? This person, when you met an incarnation of him, caused you lost sleep, too, didn’t he?
But his presence in my life this academic year is teaching me all sorts of things I wasn’t aching to discover: he’s showing me how ill-equipped I am to deal with his pathologies—how easily the teacher role casts me as an enabler. He’s good, too. When I try to reset the boundaries a bit, drawing a pre-1989 line to send him back into East Berlin while I keep partying and buying truckloads of consumer goods over in West Berlin, he gets defensive and broken and lobs a few little rocks over at my wall. They take chinks out of me, too.
So all these hours when I’m not sleeping? I’m trying to figure out how to help both Gorbachev and me keep that all-important wall intact. I need the protection.
Dropping the labored metaphor, I can just say that he’s got me obsessing and has inspired an exhausting mania in my darker hours. I completely want him to miss the bus (see, he has a car or two, but can’t drive them, um, because doing that is expensive, so he has to take the bus. It’s not at all related to DUI issues.). I want him to miss the bus and miss class. Forever.
What’s getting me through this very minute of internal fretting and typing, this trying minute of 2:41 a.m., is the bear-hunting program I’m watching on Channel 10. All these guys in camouflage are kind of sad in their own way (and trust me, I can see the case for hunting…but baited bears?). They’re assuring themselves of their own worth with all their guns and gadgets, the same way poor Batshit and his delusions and drinking give him a skewed sense of validity. It’s all about wanting to feel that you’re powerful, that what you’re doing has a purpose, that you’ve got control over something, inn’t it?
Ooh, now that they’ve dropped the mighty beast, the shooters on the screen are urging me to buy an ATV trailer called the “Tail-gator.” Apparently, it can also help me drag carcasses out of the woods.
What I really need is an “Alkie-gator” to help me drag a student out of the classroom.
And fifty-nine gin and tonics to help me sleep.