Thursday, August 6, 2009


For perhaps the fifth time since my last summer class in mid-June, I had a sleepless night last night.

Not insomnia, exactly. I suppose that, if I had needed to, I would have gone to sleep, if not at a “usual” hour—since even when I’m working (teaching) I have about a two-and-a-half-hour window for going to bed, anytime between 9:30 p.m. and midnight typically—then at least at a fairly reasonable hour, determined by when I usually wake, to my alarm clock, set at 5:30 a.m.

But the thing is, for most of the days I have had off for the past month and a half, I have not needed to get up at any particular hour. Though I still wake up at the alarm at 5:30, I can stay in bed as late as I like, or even go back to sleep (though going back to sleep is something I rarely do). Most mornings I follow my dog Ripley’s cues and maintain a half-wake, half-sleep state—getting up to pee or nibble, daydreaming, wandering the boundaries of my territory aimlessly, concentrating on the intake of air and then its exhalation.

Not “insomnia,” because insomnia is a “chronic” “inability.” Staying awake is not something I do all the time—and, even then, it is more or less a choice not to sleep—that is, I have no reason to sleep if I’m not inclined to do so—and I say “more or less a choice” because to my way of thinking the lack of an inclination is not exactly a “choice”—like my “choice” not to get married and my “choice” not to invest in real estate.

My big event yesterday was to transfer water and sewage service to my name—for which I took two trips to Durham City Hall, two, because on my first trip, I forgot my lease—for future historians, on my second trip, with the lease in hand, I found out that the address on the lease I had signed is incorrect, so my landlady had to be phoned to verify by occupancy of 318 Clark. I also bought a small birthday present for my friend Dave, whose birthday I will be celebrating with him and his boyfriend early because on his actual birthday they will be leaving for the South of France (approximately the same weekend I will be reading students’ diagnostic essays on—I don’t know—what motto they chose to live their lives by and why, perhaps).

Last night I was not inclined to sleep, even after such a jam-packed day. Instead, I read some short stories by Dennis Cooper, scratched behind Ripley’s ears … a lot, answered some e-mail … at length … from people I don’t even really know except via the Internet (not “pen pals,” but “keypad pals”), and then, quite late, telephoned two guys in Wisconsin I had arranged to interview for one of my other blogs, then, in the wee hours, preceded to write up the interview, fictionalizing wide swaths of dialogue to make them more grammatical and pithy and me more interesting and witty. Then, that much accomplished and diligently fed into Blogger—but endlessly (to this very hour) continuing to nip and tuck the prose and find more precise and colorful words—I proceeded to listen to a long, drawn-out thunder shower in the Sensurround the two windows and low ceiling in the bedroom afford me—ears are widely undervalued as technologically astounding “sound systems.”

When I awoke to someone on NPR droning about the Sotomayor confirmation (which I shut off without even taking the time to register many political thoughts—some political thoughts slipping into my consciousness, inevitably), I got up, put food and water out for my dog, took the dog out to piss and shit on the front lawn, decided I was not inclined to eat breakfast (dependable oatmeal, almost always), enjoyed padding barefoot around the newly occupied residence some more, picking up (with my fingers) tiny fragments of packing material that the broom had missed yesterday, and then spent several minutes in my “empty” room (its wood floors and plaster walls empty of anything but a 3x5 rug with a floral design, which I could sit on, but did not). Then I watched Ripley sleep and breathe. Then I ate an apple. Then I reread the interview I wrote, making miniscule changes of pitch and emphasis—for a piece almost no one but me, the interviewees, and perhaps a hundred other people will ever read—and invited the two interviewees to become my MySpace friends. Then I set two eggs in cold water, brought them to a rapid boil, and then turned off the heat. Then I wrote another long message to another virtual friend.

For about thirty minutes I imagined a man I had met perhaps twelve times without clothes on—well, you should know, he was wearing clothes when I met him—I am painted into a grammatical corner here—then fitted into a white skintight Lycra wrestling singlet—then in his usual crisp pastel shirt and prescription eyewear. I imagined him desperately trying to pin my shoulders to the floor and repeatedly failing, with maximum body contact. and loud heaving expressions of exasperation, more at himself, his failure, than at me per se. This, needless to say, was the least stoical part of my morning.

Right now I feel as refreshed as if I had had my full eight hours of sleep. I have no plans until tomorrow evening. I have no inclination to prepare myself for the fall semester, which begins in two weeks, not caring this minute to raise either my expectations for student achievement or my expertise on minutiae that, however much they entertain me, will be lost on most of the students I can reasonably expect to attend any of my classes. I hold no expectations or hopes (or worries or fears) over whether I will sleep tonight, then.

I am, as I write this last sentence, preparing to eat the boiled eggs, which should be cool to the touch by now—with big gobs of Marzetti’s Light Honey Dijon Dressing, for lunch.

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