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Tucked In And Terrified

Surprise, surprise. I can't sleep. I made a valiant effort, though. I went to bed at 11:30 to the sounds of my computer playing cheery sitcoms on loop and my ocean-waves, white-noise emulator. This usually helps, but not tonight, which turned into early morning -- 5:50 a.m. From my bed, the old college twin futon on the floor, I can see blue sunlight worming its way around the slats of my Venetian blinds.

Half an hour ago, I gave in and threw two CVS-brand headache relief tablets at the migraine threatening to push my right eye out of its socket, but sleep still eludes me. I can predict how this will end: I will rise at nine, watch ER reruns at ten, and be back in bed by noon, drifting off -- fully dressed -- in the safety of the day.

I've never been a good sleeper. From day one, I was up half the night, driving my parents -- who were on the older side by the time they ushered their first and only four-pound screamer into the world -- insane. They took turns, my mom and dad, bouncing me around the dining room to scratchy records at all hours of the night, trying to coax my little body into, as my auntie says, "going nightingale." I can see this as if I remember it, my mother in her then-favorite wide-necked Little Richard shirt, my tiny head against her shoulder, my father in his flannels, cradling my back with his large, gentle hand, cooing at me sweetly in Latvian. "Milais, milais," he said, "dear one, dear one."

Though I finally managed to conk out and stay that way, giving my parents much-needed relief, it didn't last long. At eight years old, I woke up one morning to find that my mother had died during the night, and the cycle started all over again. This time, alone in my dark room, I was plagued with fear and would lie stiff and silent, wondering what in the world would happen next. It got so bad that my father, all six feet of him, had to curl up at the foot of my tiny bed in order for me to even close my eyes. And he did, night after night, for a year, waking me with his snoring, guarding me as I slept.

And it stuck with me. To this day -- though it's gotten better -- I have trouble falling asleep. Like tonight, which has now become last night, I find myself at the mercy of my mind, which will not shut itself off. My brain, rocked off its axis all those years ago, cannot wind down peacefully. Instead it loops, thought cycles crashing into one another. I stare at the wall, unseeing, as they churn, worry after worry after worry. I have to call the insurance company. You'll never get that film made. She doesn't love you anymore, you idiot. Yes, She does. No, she doesn't. You need to write that paper if you want to go see Noah. Will the diabetic pills make me ill tomorrow? They can't make me ill tomorrow. Noah will be so pissed if I'm too sick to go up there. Of course she loves you. Don't be dense. She said it, so she meant it. God, she'll be so mad at you. So just shut up. It's so fucking late. You're going to be so tired, and you're going to waste the whole day in bed. What were you thinking, you moron? That it would have actually worked? Are you insane? Oh, go to sleep already. And on and on and on -- endless. The headache, pills, rages. I try to cry -- I feel like crying -- but can't.

Last night, formerly tonight, there was no relief but daybreak. Sometimes it's like this, just as it used to be -- me, trapped in my head, at the mercy of sunrise. And I'm an adult now, I guess; no Jimmy Cliff on the phonograph, no one curled on my bed. No "milais." Everyone is tucked in. My father is sawing logs in Brooklyn. My mother is in the earth. I miss them. I miss home. I miss her. It's just me, my worries, my migraine.

But the sun is up.


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