I used to fall asleep within seconds of closing my eyes. Danielle used to tease me about it. She would say something to me in bed and I would JOLT awake and she would think that I was just playing with her. “Stop faking!” she would say. “You were not asleep, we JUST got in bed!” But it was true. I could go to sleep whenever, all I had to do was get under the covers and close my eyes. It was fantastic. But sadly, that talent left when she did.
Falling asleep is the worst part of my day, every day. I spend my whole day afraid of that moment, honestly from the time I wake up. It’s an uncomfortable thought so ubiquitous it’s almost corporeal, hovering around over my left shoulder, silently reminding me that eventually today, I’ll have to do it again: No matter how good today is, or how many friends I see, or how well my set goes, I’ll eventually be left alone in my bed with all of my saddest, scariest thoughts.
As soon as she left, I stopped sleeping. Right after she moved out, I started pacing my sad, empty apartment all night. I would put Ethan to bed and sit on the floor of his room for a while and listen to him breathe softly while he held onto my arm. And when that became more sad than comforting, I would just walk back and forth from my bedroom, through the kitchen, to the big windows of the living room, and back again. I would stare out at the SLC skyline and watch my homeless neighbors on the street below, pacing parallel with me, all of us anxious and aimless all night long. Just one of us actually had a nice, big bed going to waste while he cried about how unfair life was.
I’d stand in the frame of my bedroom door and just stare at that bed. Standing there, I could see back just a couple months prior when we bought a brand new mattress and bed frame. It was the first mattress we had ever bought ourselves, and it was the first time in years that our bed had been up off the floor, on an actual frame. We bought it from IKEA and had a bitch of a time assembling it. I could see us sitting there on the floor at 4am, with screws spread out on the floor and Master of None on the TV. Just months ago, my life felt so sure and so real that I took it all for granted. Now I’m standing here alone in the dark and I even though I haven’t yet stopped playing it over in my head, I still have no idea what the fuck happened.
And those thoughts still haven’t gone away. They just wait for me. All day, just waiting for me. And when I’m alone, they pounce. So I surround myself with distractions. I surround myself with people, the best I can. (*I’ve learned that most people though, have actual lives and actually plan ahead, and can’t always drop everything when I suddenly feel scared and frantically text everyone I know something like “HEY! ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING RIGHT NOW? WANNA DO SOMETHING? ANYTHING? LITERALLY ANYTHING?” so I apologize. Sorry guys.*) But I’ve gotten (slightly) better at planning my daily distractions ahead of time. And I can have days full of friends and fun and sometimes even productivity! But none of that matters come bedtime.
No matter what I do today, no matter how distracted I keep myself, there’s still this awful, terrible moment, where I’m alone and quiet and waiting for sleep to take me. And in that moment, I usually cry. It’s often surprising, or at least it used to be, how fast I could break down. I had felt so happy just a moment ago. And it wasn’t until now that I realized I had actually been sad all day, I had just compartmentalized it, set it to the side, tried to ignore it. But you can’t suppress those feelings forever.
So I got tired of crying myself to sleep. So I started staying up later and later and later. Rather than face that quiet moment, rather than let that sadness out of his cage, I’d just start another movie, maybe get something to eat, just watch one more episode, take one more hit, masturbate one more time. And then hopefully push myself past the point of exhaustion where I can just pass out immediately without any quiet moments of self-reflection. I even started putting headphones in and listening to music and sleep hypnosis YouTube channels so I could keep my mind focused on something else all the way up until my brain turned off. But you can’t suppress those feelings forever.
You ever wake up crying? It’s been happening more and more for me lately. It’s like that sad beast is upset I cheated him out of our alone time and he waits all night for me, with his paws on my chest, just watching and waiting. And the second my eyes pop open, he pounces. And I just start crying. I’m still under my blankets, head still on my pillow, and I’m crying. It’s a hell of a way to start your day.
Sometimes I can’t even make it til morning. I have nightmares about Danielle. Very unsubtle nightmares. I have nightmares about her new bf/fiance/husband. I have nightmares about losing my son. I feel like even when I do sleep, it’s a very shallow sleep. I’m always on the verge of waking up. During these nightmares, I’m often aware that I’m laying in my bed, dreaming, and it’s hard to tell when I’ve woken up. I never sleep more than 4-5 hours at a time, but often less than that. I take naps during the day. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m so exhausted by midday, or if the daylight feels less lonely, but it’s always easier to fall asleep during the day.
What I’ve come to realize is how perfectly amazing it is to sleep with another person. I completely took it for granted when I actually had someone who wanted to sleep with me. I never ever wanted to snuggle with Danielle. I just couldn’t fall asleep that way. She liked spooning, but I slept comically straight. Like a board. Flat on my back, hands at my side, and I never tossed or turned. And I loved thin, flat pillows, so that my head was just barely higher than the rest of my body. In one of those cute couple conundrums, she could only sleep if she was touching me, and I could only fall asleep if I wasn’t being touched by anything. But I would usually fall asleep incredibly fast and then she would creep her feet over to my legs, and her butt up against my hand. And now, that’s all I want.
It’s so so so SO comforting to just be next to someone else. I even settle for sleeping in the same house as other people. That’s why I stayed at my parents’ all this week. I finally got home late Thursday, got to my room, and saw Ethan’s empty bed, which instantly reminded me that she still won’t let me have him back, reminded me how much I missed him, reminded me that I really was all alone. So I dropped my duffle and just left. Walked around downtown all night. Went to sleep around 4. Goddamnit I want my son back.
I started piling pillows next to and on top of me before going to sleep. It helps. I totally changed my sleeping positions too. I bought a big, thick pillow and now sleep almost entirely on my side (which I’ve never done before), often wrapping my arms and legs around another pillow, pretending I’m not alone. But nothing beats sleeping next to someone else. I love it. Because the beast isn’t there if someone else is. Like there’s not enough room for all three of us in this bed so he stays in his cage, presumably not happy about it, but fuck him.
I’ve had sex with women just so I could snuggle with them afterwards. Actually, I’d say that’s the main reason I have sex. I mean, I’ve had fun, good ol horny sex (at least twice!) but 90% of the time I’m doing it because I just can’t cry myself to sleep again tonight. Because I just don’t want to be alone. And it’s AMAZING!! Oh my God, sleep just comes so EASILY. You can’t appreciate it until you’ve spent a year BEGGING your body to just let you fall asleep. And suddenly, it’s just. so. easy. There’s this beautiful, sweet person wrapped around you. Her skin is warm and soft and her smells great and she LIKES you. Even if just for a night, even if just for pretend, she LIKES you. For at least one night you are liked and you are loved and you don’t feel like a completely worthless piece of shit, so that quiet little moment in the dark is actually peaceful. It’s actually welcome. You can embrace it because it feels good tonight. You feel good. And while there’s a nagging little feeling that whispers it’s not going to last for long, that’s one that you can suppress, at least until after breakfast.
And then you fall asleep.
Now I’m gonna go tell a bunch of people I don’t know a bunch of jokes that I don’t really like, but I’ll be grateful for the excuse to pretend to be happy, grateful for the applause because it feels something like love. Then I’m gonna see my friends and try to convince them to stay up as late as possible. Then I’ll probably annoy somebody and ask if I can crash on their couch (which is great because the cushions snuggle up against you!). And then I’ll stay as busy as I can tomorrow and the next day and the next and the next until one day, I’m not as sad anymore. That’s the plan anyway.