The Making of an Insomniac
what jumped on top of me: one of the parlor boys, Victor by name. Victor had the advantage of my recline, wooziness and astonishment, but I had the advantage of adrenaline. I got him off. No serious damage inflicted on either side. Even so, prior to that grope and grab, I had never worried about such a thing happening and after it happened, the fear and expectation of repetition lived with me, side by side. Darkness and night most especially raised my guard. To be absolutely clear: physically, Victor did me no harm. I was neither raped nor near-raped. I kicked; he landed on the floor. Yet our skirmish colored everything from Florence through Camber through the trip back to Gatwick. On that final train ride, a mother and daughter overheard me talking to another American about a filched suitcase, an extra I'd left in an unlocked basement, my security screw-up, my fault, but the mother, holding tight to her daughter's hand, came over to my seat and in recompense invited me to spend my last night in their country in their home. An extraordinarily gracious and generous offer, both touching and embarrassing. I was sorry she had overheard my whining, sorry to have given the impression that I considered England a land of thieves, very sorry to decline her hospitality. But I couldn't have accepted, not just then. In a stranger's house, however kind the stranger, however comfortable the stranger's bed, I wouldn't have been able to sleep. Not a wink. CoLLEGE PREPARES; IT ALSO, IN MOST CASES, postpones the full-bore stresses and worries of adulthood in practice. For my first job, degree in hand, I worked out of a deserted strip mall office from four to eight p.m., scheduling house-call appointments for salesman selling backhoe training courses. As a newly graduated bachelor of arts, before misplacing my talent for sleeping altogether, I slept hard to avoid consciousness of an existence no longer punctuated or defined by the classroom and the letdown of that withdrawal. Ten-, twelve-, fourteen-hour sessions by night, multiple catnaps by day, usually in a chair that was losing its stuffing by the fistfuls. To label the self of that period "depressed" doesn't quite cover the entire symptomatology of my malaise. I was listless, yes, and blue. But I was also stark raving terrified. What if the best was already behind me? What if one day I woke up from my catnap and decided there was no reason, ever, to leave that decomposing chair? '
As WE FLOAT IN OUR MOTHERS' WOMBS, three-quarters of our sleep is REM sleep, rapid eye movement sleep, dream sleep. The instant we're born, the REM percentage drops to fifty percent. Once we become adults, another percentage drop, down to twenty-five. During my molting-in-chairs phase, had I known such statistics, I would have scoffed. I would have scoffed louder had anyone suggested to me-a sleeping genius-that I would ever Summer - Fall 2006
The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho