Tuesday, July 11, 2006

you're just an empty cage, girl, if you kill the bird.

sleep is putting up a fight lately. we’ve always had something of a contentious relationship, but lately, any semblance of control over the process has eluded me. night after night, battle-weary, i sink into bed and try – try to clear my mind, try to breathe evenly and deeply, try to entice the sleep my bones and muscles and eyelids want so badly. but it keeps skittering away from me, like a fly around a flyswatter, or dust in a draft.

and i wonder what it is. what is this uneasiness that keeps me shifting from my left side to my right, from my right side to my stomach, from my stomach to my back with hands tucked resignedly behind my head? i move in and out of darkened apartment rooms, chilled by deep shadows and imagined movements. through the bedroom window, i watch the tops of the trees sway across the street. i pick, absentmindedly, at scars.

my brain is humming. the thoughts are connected yet not, like a stream of broken stones. where is south station again? i don’t want an apartment with carpet. we should give those books to the Women & Children booksale. i’d like another tattoo. if there was a fire, how would we ever get out? i'd like to go to Morocco. what was that noise? i can’t find any jobs. no really, what was that noise? and running over (or maybe under) all this is an insistent tori amos chorus, held over from the commute home.

why do we
crucify ourselves

every day

it repeats and repeats, while my toes flex in time with its rhythm.

from the living room, my cat lets out a strangled sound. this has become a bizarre little nighttime routine for us over the last few evenings – i’ve started to expect it. she cries out in a few short bursts and a few longer, vacant meows, and then I see her shadow move near the bedroom door.

tschook, tschook i sound out with my tongue against my teeth, softly. “come here,” i whisper, hoping not to wake the only sleeping one in the apartment. but he just shifts slightly and is still again. the cat comes stealthily and tentatively along the side of the bed, where i reach over and pat her head. she looks at me, the nightstand, the foot of the bed. she jumps up, stands alongside my stomach for a few reassuring pats.

“i know, sweetie. i know.”

she settles in at my feet.

and i wonder what it is. i can feel the anxiety in my shoulders, in the small of my back as i stretch sideways. i roll and twist, trying to release the tension. i stare at the slight swing of a tree branch, cast in negative against the wall twelve inches from my face. i stay awake, because somewhere in all this night and darkness and stillness, there must be some kind of answer just about to swim up in front of me. there must be, right? there must be some kind of clue tucked into the minute beyond this one, or the one beyond that – a way to fill the hollow.

i’m waiting.


Amy said...

Great writing...honestly..it gave me chills. And great reference to Tori. I *heart* her.

Thinking of you....

Toast said...

Great description of insomnia. As an old pro at that game, I can tell you that you nailed it.

Ever get "Radio Head"? No, not the band, the conscious experience. It's like what you describe, only in addition to your own thoughts and songs and whatnot you start catching completely random snippets of voices? People saying things, could be from your day, could be some phrase that lodged in your brain from the radio or television, could be something your gray matter just completely made up on a lark. Sometimes, I actually like to relax into this neurological noise and just let it wash over me, like free entertainment, like listening to an old radio drifting between stations. Then, sometimes, that relaxation leads to sleep.

Oh, and if you think the tossing and turning is bad now, just wait 'til you start to approach middle age. Heh heh heh...

jayniek said...

kate, that was gorgeous.

and toast, your description of "radiohead" is perfect. I need to expand on that in an upcoming post.
expect a citation...

dorothy rothschild said...

I've been having trouble sleeping for the last month. I'm sitting here now typing this with that feverish feeling behind my eyes because I didn't sleep much at all last night.

And one of my cats does exactly what yours does. Every night. She has a toy in her mouth when she does it, as if she's caught a juicy mouse. I read in a cat behavior book that this is mothering behavior. She's caught something and wants to bring it back to the nest and is meowing for her babies.

kate.d. said...

yeah, toast, i think i have shades of radio head in my insomnia. it's usually my own voice, but when i think about it, i'm certain some others make their way in there.

and that's funny about your cat, dot. we tend to call our cat's moments like this her "existential meowing," because it has this "oh, woe is me, i can't go on i am just so sad" sound to it. she has done it very, very early in the morning as well - it's almost like she wakes up and finds nothing stirring, and she has a moment of "oh, i'm all alone!"

it's quite pathetic, but sometimes, i can relate!

The Disgruntled Chemist said...

Ever get "Radio Head"?

Yeah, I do, but it's (almost) never my own voice. And it's totally random, like you said - not important stuff at all, and not always from that day.

But also like you said, it's not unpleasant. Just kind of strange.

barb said...

oh wow, kate you are a great writer! I love you!!!!

Cinnamon said...

This brought tears to my eyes. I so identify with this. Sleep and I have an iffy relationship and I'm the one that's co-dependent, needing sleep and knowing that it doesn't need anything from me in return.

That said, I get this tea from Merz Apothecary in Lincoln Square, they also have it downtown at Marshall Field's on State. It doesn't taste great, but one cup is usually enough to quiet the radio head enough to make it just sound staticy so I can drift off.

kate.d. said...

cinnamon, whats the name of the tea? i'll try to pick some up while i'm still her in chicago, and if it does work, i'll need to know what name to be searching for in DC :)