Monday, January 31, 2005
"To sleep, perchance to dream-
ay, there's the rub."
--From Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)
Lately, Abbie had been trying to relax more. She was taking a ceramics class at the University and writing some poetry. The after effects and stress of moving to Sendersville were finally starting to subside. She had actually even moved in legitimately, materially, for a change. Everything in her apartment had finally found its way out of its boxes and it seemed she was going to be able to stay a while. Sometime towards the end of summer, she noticed she was beginning to settle in. At each of her last few apartments, the boxes had never disappeared completely. She would get herself unpacked to a certain extent, with bed and sofa and television and closets full of clothes, like most people, but she was generally content to navigate a maze of boxes to get from toilet to toaster. So, rather than hunt high and low for the salad spinner, she was the type who would simply do without. She would seldom unpack all the little things that emotionally, and cosmetically, take your shelter to the next level of comfort. The boxes containing photo albums and letters and framed pictures; Mom and Dad, nightscapes she had taken in college, pictures from Wyoming where she had lived before getting married, pictures of her dogs when she was a little girl, almost all of her past remained entombed for transit. No matter how long she was somewhere, no matter how much time she committed herself to unpacking, she couldn’t, until recently, manage to cross that threshold into actually living anywhere.
This sense of place, actual personal space, was a personal victory for Abbie. After a year or so of habitual impermanence, boxes clogging her domestic arteries, books never quite making it to the shelves, trunks posing as coffee tables, she had finally gotten herself all poured into the closets and cabinets. Parts of her had been slung into the crawlspace, drawers were filling with string and carpet tacks and batteries, tables had flowers, the basement had a workshop even and she was fixing it up to use as a studio. It was shaping up into a fairly normal place really. Not that she fully expected it to last.
She thought about this now because she had celebrated her domestic triumph on a comfortable autumn day. She had found a place for everything in a late night, wine-induced, fit of organization. She remembered the market outside was starting to transform itself, as antique beer cans replaced fresh rhubarb, and lava lamps were lined up where the garlic and shallots and onions had been only weeks before. The array was so similar really. Popcorn makers (unused, in Box); Racing with Jesus Nascar pins and keychains and beer steins; handmade scarves and water pipes; buttons; and on and on. She had been the first customer, drinking her coffee watching the goods multiply in the stalls along 18th Street, when she decided to treat herself to a Tamagotchi. These electronic pets had been an insanely popular Japanese toy in the 90’s. Small, colored objects, about the size of a pocket watch, these micropets came with virtual responsibilities, as they needed care and feeding and love just as would their real life counterparts. Hers, Astro, was blue. And it was kind of needy she thought. Though it seemed healthy enough and had rarely been sick in its short life, it was sometimes going poo even without having been fed which was a trait she hadn’t expected. The sprawling outdoor market was one of Abbie’s favorite places because these were the earliest businesses to rise in her neighborhood. Followed soon after by the cafes and groceries and dry cleaners and then the wheels of commerce would finally begin to grind and it would seem finally that everyone else had joined her again at least for the time being.
Most nights, Abbie didn’t sleep at all. And hadn’t really for much of her adult life. This explained her affinity for Farmer’s markets and early risers but not her relative transience nor her marked passion for order, these will be explained later. The loss of her ability to sleep, to just shut things down for the night, didn’t seem to bother her like some of the others she had met. She had been depressed at first, now some ten years ago, and had spent most of time chasing rest with alcohol or exercise or whale sounds but none of it seemed to help. She then had tried going to sleep disorder clinics and had even traveled somewhat extensively to be observed. For a while, it seemed as though science was her chosen profession and sleep her specialty. Except she wasn’t very good at doing it. She had been tested for apnea and thyroid disorders, had changed her diet, dabbled in feng shui, been ‘healed’ by a Cincinnati mystic. It had been suggested, by her psychiatrist, that the depression might have been the root cause for her sleeplessness though she suspected not. She did take anti-depressants for a while and it helped her only a little with her predilection towards the continuous doing of things but it didn’t really help her to sleep at all. She stopped taking them after just a couple of months. It was at that point that she realized that these medical practitioners, well-meaning down to the last one, didn’t seem to know shit about what was going on inside of her. Nobody was going to tell her why a nap of fifteen minutes was sometimes followed by three days of socalled ‘normal’ wakefulness. And the real stumper for them, beside her relative high normal energy levels, had been how she could dream while doing the dishes. She could even drift off while doing a crossword puzzle or during any quiet activity which required only the slightest economy of movement.
These were episodes of parasomnia, or sleep-walking, most of her learned advisors had declared at some point or other. They had determined through testing that she was enjoying certain manifestations of sleep, namely REM or rapid eye movement. And during these periods she would report dreams of remarkable clarity but it would eventually dawn on them that she experienced no disconnection from her conscious mind. She could participate in their discussions concerning her even as she dreamed and while her basal indicators clearly confirmed that she was in fact soundly sleeping. Her unconscious was rolling along with carpeted ceilings, sexual tensions, old lovers, girlfriends from fifth grade, a general suspension of physics where gravity would pull or not depending on who know’s what, she could fly, she had been frighteningly obese in one recurring dream, she had fallen deeply in love with and lived briefly with John Turturro and it was she who had helped him to choose the right film projects. In short, there were familiar places, there were fantastic places, there were dangers, chases, sexual tension, warm and savory childhood memories to be relived. Yet, she was also clinically awake as though she could hit ‘pause’ when interrupted by yet another Dr. with his sonorous questions, all calm and knowing and just as easily could return to her life as a bridge keeper, who played the banjo to communicate with all of God’s creatures. Eventually she came to think of herself as ‘differently abled’. Seriously, she thought, if we could collect all that we don’t know about our own fragile psyche and then birth it into this world, it would muster its huge hindquarters and sit its fat ass square on top of what little we do know. Like a bear on a grasshopper.