Jackie Summers spends another night with Insomnia. It’s going to be a long one.
Insomnia sauntered nonchalantly into my bedroom, fully aware that the click-clacking her four-inch stilettos made as they struck my hardwood floors was sufficient to wake me. Her utter lack of consideration wasn’t due to the fact that she knew I was already wide awake; she just didn’t give a shit.
It was three o’clock in the morning.
She made herself cozy at the foot of my four poster stainless steel canopy bed, and sparked up a Lucky Strike. In the moonlight I couldn’t tell if the gossamer frock that clung for dear life to her every curve was maroon or scarlet. What I could discern was: it had spaghetti strings, no back, and beacoup décolletage. I asked her politely to leave; she flipped me the finger.
“Is that how it’s gonna be?” I asked, bleary-eyed.
She took a deep drag of her cigarette, and exhaled slowly. A plume of smoke bisected a moonbeam as it left her perfectly puckered lips. “Darling,” she countered “why should tonight be different than any other?”
I rolled over onto my side, pulled the covers over my head, and resumed chanting my mantra to myself. “Just let go” I whispered into the darkness. “Just let go…”
“You and that stupid fucking mantra. Just let go, just let go…” she snarked, in her best Dr. Phil voice. “How’s that workin for ya?”
She knows I hate it when she does the Dr. Phil voice.
I sat up in my bed, glowering at her. She correctly interpreted my silence as capitulation, and smiled wryly. “I do so enjoy your pretense of resistance. Your sense of frustration is… succulent. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way,” she continued smugly, “shall we do roll call? Jack?” she called out sweetly to nobody in particular. “Jack, from Brooklyn…?”
I nodded in reluctant acknowledgement. “Good,” she said. “All present and accounted for. This meeting of The Insomniac’s Club will now come to order.”
Sleep used to be my lover. Blissful, uninterrupted Sleep, used to bless me nightly with her nocturnal visits. In years past we’d make love all night long, pause briefly for sustenance, and then resume until entirely inappropriate hours of the early afternoon, or until the affairs of the day simply demanded we desist. I’d wake refreshed, renewed; invigorated.
Sleep set the precedent, having loved and subsequently abandoned me. Like others who followed in her wake, I clung vainly to the hope that someday, she’d return. In the aftermath, her wayward daughter rushed in to occupy the space she rightfully claimed as her own. I don’t recall giving her a set of keys, but Insomnia let herself in at will; coming and going as she pleased.
“So, what’s on the agenda tonight?” she piped cheerily. ”Existential angst? Sideways time travel? Unrequited love?”
“How about we talk about you for a change?” I suggested. ”We spend night after night together but I barely know anything about you. Do you have siblings? What was your childhood like? Is this what you’re like with everyone? Seems like you’ve been visiting a lot of my friends lately; have you been stalking my Facebook page?”
In the dark of night the iridescent blue of her irises glimmered like topaz. She stood, hiked up her dress to reveal a superbly toned and unusually long leg, put her foot on my bed, and pulled a hip flask from her garter. She flung her shoulder length titian hair away from her face with a violent shrug of her neck, took two, three swigs of some unknown elixir which smelled reminiscent of cappuccino, and paused, pregnantly.
“I’m sure you have some vague recollection of my Mother, Sleep? Obviously you’ve met my Dad: Stress. I guess at some point Mom really loved Dad; she’s got a thing for workaholics, but they should never have procreated.
“I was born in Sumer, somewhere around the time of Gilgamesh, in a city called U’ruk, which I guess makes me Akkadian. Men had just begun to leave their simple lives of farming and hunting to congregate in cities. That’s when all the fun started. The Mesopotamians? Man, those folks really knew how to party.
“Family? You’ve met my step-sisters, the twins: Worry and Doubt. You’re intimately acquainted with my cousin Nightmare; you’re one of her faves, you know. As often as she visits you’d think we were having a ménage, but somehow she always seems to be leaving just as I arrive.
“Those three alone have sent enough business my way to have kept me vibrant for the past ten thousand years. But this wondrous modern age you live in has birthed all new gods to serve my interests. It began with Intercontinental Travel, who sired Jet Lag. But that was just a portend of things to come. Television, Video Games, Internet, Starbucks, Porn; all of Technology’s children pay homage to me.
“And this latest deity: Social Media? My god, I’ve never felt more alive.
“But all of them combined have not brought me as many servants as my Great-aunt, once removed. Love sends me her young and her old, her joyful and her disconsolate, her enamored and her broken. All who Love, eventually spend the night in my arms.
“I keep a house in Istanbul for when I’m feeling homesick and corporeal, and I’ve got a condo in Tribeca. I’ve gotta tell you, I love New York. I have seen every cave, closet and corner of this great green globe, but I’m not ashamed to admit: nowhere has ever felt quite so much like home as the City That Never Sleeps.
“As for this delusion that you are somehow special, my dear let me assure you: I am ubiquitous. As we speak, a billion manifestations of me are keeping the sleepless company tonight. Of course, few of them are cognizant enough to realize they’re being visited by divinity; fewer still are vain enough to personify me and then attempt to engage me in conversation.”
“Vain?” I perked up. “No one asked you to be here. You show up unannounced and uninvited. You always overstay your welcome, and every time you leave I pray I’ll never see you again. Nobody loves you, nobody wants you, and after the day I’ve had you’re the absolute last person I want to see in my bedroom at this ungodly hour of the night-slash-morning. And yet, you have the unmitigated gall to refer to those who suffer your presence as acolytes? Fuck you, Insomnia.”
“Fuck me?” she chortled. “I’m not the one having a conversation with a figment of his imagination, instead of sleeping. Besides, if you’d had the balls to address that knot in the pit of your stomach yesterday afternoon, maybe tonight’s entire episode could have been avoided.
“Fuck me?” She flicked the half-inch of smoldering ash from her cigarette, drew a final deep drag, and then extinguished the butt in a shot glass turned ash tray. “A word to the wise, Jackie boy” she hissed, all of her myriad forms now seeming to speak in dark dissonance through a singular discordant voice. “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at immortal demigods with bazookas. I’m a deathless, ageless umbra; capable of unreasonable pettiness. If you ever take that tone with me again, I’ll make it my business to see that you never enjoy another peaceful night’s slumber for the rest of your life.”
Insomnia is such a bitch.
There are no clocks in my home. When I get out of bed in the middle of the night and drag myself downstairs (with Insomnia in tow) I don’t really want to know what time it is. I make it a point to avoid the pale blue glow of either the cable box or the microwave as I make my way to the kitchen and rummage through my cabinets; it’s time for a cocktail. I take two melatonin, two kava kava, two valerian root, two chamomile, two nyquil, and a vicodin, and wash it all down with Johnny Walker Black, on ice.
I sneak a peek at my iPhone; it’s a quarter to five in the morning and I’m not the least bit sleepy.
I splay myself across the most comfortable piece of furniture I own: a chaise lounge ensconced in tufted, chocolate-brown crushed velvet; Insomnia curls up beside me silently. I flip on the ginormous flatscreen and rifle through channels aimlessly with the sound on mute. Few things are more stupefiyingly lowbrow than late-night infomercials, although I am seriously considering buying some of that Oxi-Clean Billy Mays is hawking.
Even on the dimmest setting I can feel the backlit LED display on my laptop burn away my old corneas as I flip the lid open. I initiate “the routine;” I check my email (personal and work) eleventeen times. In rapid succession I then check MSN, AOL, Skype, and Yahoo IM. I pledge allegiance to Social Media and check my Facebook and Twitter accounts; hell I even check my MySpace page. Nothing; my friends in Europe are at work, my people in Tokyo and Sydney are nowhere to be found, and the rest of the world is rightfully, sound asleep. I feel like the Omega Man; I wonder how many fellow insomniacs are thinking that same thought at that exact moment.
I’m seriously considering checking Craigslist personals when Insomnia conspicuously clears her throat into her hand.
“Minutes of tonight’s meeting thus far” she pronounced, now doing the nasally secretary’s voice. ”There was a lengthy soliloquy about Insomnia’s personal history. Jack’s masturbated thrice (at least feign discretion next time please, there is a lady present), ingested enough sleep inducers to stop a charging rhino, all while listening to subliminal brain wave music . An ungracious host, he’s insulted and even worse: ignored his guest, choosing instead to do everything possible to invoke her mother. It’s enough to give a girl a complex. He’s done everything except the one thing that might make her consider leaving.”
“What?” I pleaded. “What will it take to make you go away?”
“Just talk to me.”
“Okay,” I relented. “What are we talking about?”
“Why you won’t just call her.”
My blood froze in my veins, and I felt my heart leap into my throat. “Calling her” I snapped after I resumed breathing “isn’t an option. She’s not speaking to me.”
“Are you afraid you’re never going to see her again?”
“No,” I sighed. “I’m not afraid of anything I know, and I know I’m never going to see her again.”
“Is that why you keep telling yourself to ‘just let go?’ Are you afraid you’ll lose the memory of her?”
I felt my eyes burn and my nostrils flare involuntarily, as I tried to find the strength to say the words out loud. “No” I stammered. “I know sooner or later, Time will steal the distinct flavor of her memory; the taste of her smile, the musky scent of the love we made.”
“So what are you afraid of?”
I bit my bottom lip hard enough to draw blood. “I’m afraid,” I choked, “that no one will ever make me feel that way again.”
“Now,” she said, “was that so hard?”
“Like flossing with razor blades.”
“Just think how much I’m saving you in therapy,” she said, cupping my face in her hands, and kissing my forehead, gently.
Insomnia and I made our way back upstairs, hand in hand. Morning had just begun to illuminate my bedroom through my french doors. I donned a blindfold once used for more libidinous purposes, which now only served to blot out the light of the sun, and climbed into bed. The (decorative) handcuffs on my headboard rattled as Insomnia curled into me, assuming the inside spoon position. She pulled my arm over her as she waited to be replaced by her mother. “Sleep like you fuck” she whispered, “hard, deep, and for at least two hours straight. When you see her, tell Mom I said “‘Hello.”‘
“This meeting of the Insomniac’s Club” she proffered as the weight of my eyelids finally overcame me, “is now concluded.”