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A Citizen of the Sacred and Mundane | 2017 | Dancing Intructions from the Beyond


What hath night to do with sleep?  

-John Milton

Wake to Sleep

My fitness tracker measure sleep not in when I click it to tell it I am going to bed or when it buzzes me awake, but rather how still I was between those points. If I fidgeted through the night, if I got up to write an email out of anxiety, if I got up to use the toilet, if I went to bed jittery, that counts against my total. I am in bed upwards of eight hours most nights. In the morning, I synchronize and discover I have every right to feel lethargic, since I slept only in the mid-six hours, the balance spent on tossing and turning or hazy fretting over things absent sleep will only exacerbate

Since getting a tracker, I try to stay in bed when sleep escapes me, as if to trick the band through stillness, which sometimes lulls me back to sleep.

So it is with friendships. On paper, we were friends for close to a decade or so, but, factoring in distance, resentment, jealousy, pity, gossip, it amounts to a few years. This is not nothing. A few years of distilled friendship is precious and ought to be cherished for what it was without growing anxious over the emotional insomnia, without regretting it was not more restful. With luck, one can slip back into friendship for a while longer before that night is over forever. Maybe, if one doesn't obsess, that will be enough for the light of day, but there will be other nights, other relationships to get the most of before the alarm calls.

Many nights, the sleep has a hard limit when my band buzzes me awake, one I knew before setting my head down and at which I can only groggily sneer; it was never a surprise. When I entered my relationship with an ex, I knew that it would complete at the end of one of her years of school, but certainly when she graduated. That our romance went on as long as it did is surprising. A quicker closure would not have markedly lessen the quality time we were together and would have eliminated some relational tossing and turning. It could have been almost all the great moments we both cherished without erosion.

Other companions disappeared as if I startled from sleep by a hypnic jerk. As far as I knew, I was drifting off for a long rest and it was instantly all gone without satisfying explanation. It was all muscular misfiring, I'm sure, but that sleep is gone forever. I have more than my share of people in my life who have vanished almost overnight, included a couple who literally packed up and moved without notice. It is hard not to begrudge the sleep you are uncertain you ever had.

I've other times lain in bed for hours, wishing sleep that would not come, resenting every minute I could not rest because it was too hot, I was itchy, I had to pee, I couldn't stop my mind, I'd had an unsettling dream. I want and need this sleep, having been awake until my eyes ached to close for a few hours, but none will come to me. Others seem to sleep without trouble or hesitation. I would call them narcoleptics, but narcolepsy is terrible and often leaves the afflicted more tired than they started.

It is the sixth anniversary of my meeting Amber. Over breakfast, she says how short this feels and how she looks forward to outlasting my longest relationship, but, if we concentrate the days spent together and their quality, she has surpassed all my frivolous and serious relationships combined. We have lived together over five years, have been the other's every day and best friends, have soothed the other on our worst and held hands on the best of our lives. So, despite what she immediately suggests, there is no need to systematically murder anyone who has known me longer on paper.

She wins because I have rested far more by her side, holding her through nearly two thousand nights.

Soon in Xenology: Strange men. The nature of happiness. The sound of silence. Underutilization. Infinite consequences. Fireworks.

last watched: Galavant
reading: Another Roadside Attraction
listening: Temple of the Dog

A Citizen of the Sacred and Mundane | 2017 | Dancing Intructions from the Beyond

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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