Matthew Mahaney: Unsleeping
Mahaney ponders his awake state @ Gulf Coast.
I’m laying down but my body isn’t right. I swing and reshape, realign my arms with the mattress but pretty soon I’m too aware of my teeth again. They’ve never fit quite right in my mouth, always shifting and leaning like bare feet in wet sand.
As a kid I used to complain that there wasn’t a pill that would just put you to sleep right away. I also wished for a helmet you could wear to bed that would let you control your dreams. I don’t remember what I thought the helmet would look like or what it would be made of. I just wanted something other than my limited dream options, which come in two categories. In the first, I’m a secret agent on a mission that inevitably fails. Eavesdropping on secret meetings, crouching in ventilation shafts, leaping from skyscraper rooftops to wrap my fingers around the steel frame of a departing helicopter. It doesn’t really matter since I always end up getting shot or falling to my death.
I spend a lot of time not asleep in my bed wondering if other people sometimes scare themselves with the things they do when they’re alone in their homes. If they ever let loose sounds they didn’t plan to, sounds they never imagined taking shape within their lungs, little not-quite-Tourette-type noises and nonsense words. Do other people’s limbs sometimes turn briefly into violent propellers or severed electrical cords without warning? Do their bodies occasionally capsize or careen into the furniture and walls?
Image: "Unmade Bed" by Diane Moses Botkin
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