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be deprived of that knack, that crutch, that comfort, that destination, that divine right and trusted means of instantaneous escape. TO THE MARVEL AND INTEREST OF PROBABLY no one other than myself, my sleep history precisely mimics the sleep histories of legions of insomniacs. Once upon a time we slept with pleasure. Another once upon a time we slept interrupted. And now, God help us wretches, we sleep hardly at all, left to the torments of capricious night, to parameters of darkness inside of which we feel undone, helpless, and mythically alone. Inside of which hope becomes a message written in another language from another millennium. Inside of which nothing good seems doable; nothing bad, avoidable. Inside of which no solutions exist, only complications subjected to further complication. I, along with some 70 million of my countrywomen and men, abjectly mourn the lost, profoundly crave the denied. Sleep, that "serious and complete thing" (Robert Penn Warren), that "spirit touching earth" (Nina Berberova), that Shakespearean wonder that "knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care" no longer consumes one third of our existence and the time redistribution is cause for deep, deep sorrow. However much I may wish my situation to be otherwise, the facts of my current condition are these: the want, the need, the determination to crawl into bed, close my eyes and sleep until morning simply won't get the job done. To desire is not to achieve or to sustain. Not anymore. AND SO, AWAKE, I BROOD INCESSANTLY, neurotically, about being awake. Circadian rhythms, melatonin production, the unwelcome news that caffeine can linger in the body for up to twelve hours. "Short sleepers" have higher metabolic rates, heart rates and body temperatures. Short sleepers also consume more oxygen, secrete more cortisol, which translates: more stressed. After eight days and nights of staying awake for charity, disc jockey Peter Tripp hallucinated spiders in his shoes. When REM pioneer Nathaniel Kleitman was asked to define the role of sleep, the scientist/philosopher replied: "Tell me what the role of wakefulness is and I will explain the role of sleep." "Pity us! Oh pity us! We wakeful," bemoaned Rudyard Kipling. Foxes dig up the ground, circle, tamp and circle again before they bed down. Benjamin Franklin favored a well-ventilated bedroom. Someone named Norman Dine filled a fiberglass tub of water, dumped in 25 pounds of salt, heated the mixture to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, eased into that briny bed and tried to sleep afloat. Tuckered out by coup planning, Lenin and Trotsky napped on the floor at the Smolny Convent, awaiting the fall of the Winter Palace. Wilbur and Orville Wright pitched a tent in windy, mosquito-plagued Kitty Hawk and forewent rest for the sake of aviation. Most memorable celluloid insomniac? 112

FUGUE#3l

Profile for University of Idaho Library

Fugue 31 - Summer/Fall 2006 (No. 31)  

The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho

Fugue 31 - Summer/Fall 2006 (No. 31)  

The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho