Sleeping alone

I sleep alone. I am beautifully, deeply, very married to a man who doesn’t take it personally. I tell people that it is because he is a snorer and I am a light sleeper, both of which is true. But as we all know, there can be more than one truth which relates to an event, either causally or by correlation.

(I never lie. I prefer to call it “summarising.”)

There was one time I remember when I slept with another person. It was 20 years ago and it lasted more than one hour, less than three. It was so completely unexpected – that is not the sort of thing I do. I was the person who could not casually allow a girl or boy friend to crash on the other side of my double bed when I was at uni and everyone sought to be as casual as possible about everything, even big things. (I lacked perspective). I would let them in to my bed, determined to be relaxed, then lie, stiff, alert; for what? A move towards intimacy if it was a boy friend; a call on my duties as hostess if it was a girl.

I don’t remember falling asleep, of course. I remember waking up. I looked up at the ceiling of Frankfurt airport. My friend sat peacefully, my head on her lap, looking around, not in any particular hurry. Multiple miracles: that she was still here, when I had tearfully farewelled her only hours ago, she for the US, me for Australia, our year of desperation (student exchange) over. The things I felt: total and deep peace. I was so completely and surprisingly safe. Wonder: I was completely and surprisingly safe, asleep in the most vulnerable position I could imagine – asleep, in a public place, at the end of happiness, at the beginning of 48 hours flying “home.”

I thought I would curse myself for wasting my last hours with my friend asleep. But I have never regretted it. This miracle. This gift. So many things have faded, but this has not. The sheer, pure wonder and the feeling of waking up, unharmed against all expectation here.

I wonder at people who can sleep next to the person they love, every night. I wonder if they wake feeling such deep nourishment every day. I wonder about what I am missing.

I think I should perhaps try again. But I tell myself, and it is true, causally, correlatively, there is never a good time in our busy lives to conduct an experiment which involves losing nights of sleep.

My husband now has a snoring machine, and I have tailor made ear plugs from a cheery audiologist who wished me good luck. Last time we travelled, I slept in the same room and it was ok. It was OK. There was an alertness, but still.

I try not to think about this in terms of progress. And I try not to think about what buried bones make me so alert in my sleep. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. I try not to think.

It was so unexpected: waking, seeing the ceiling, then realising what I had just done. Wonder at myself. Love for her. I only saw her once again in my life. I googled her, but there is no trace. I do not think I will ever see her again.

It was the result of a strange combination of utter exhaustion and bonus time. A gift. Extra, spent in a miracle. Sleep like that is pure luxury: in broad daylight, in public, with someone you may never see again and love desperately because of it. There is nothing of need or functionality about it. It is pure excess, which is why it stays with me, year after year, as close as I have to an experience of mystery, of total surrender, of encompassing peace. Of god.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The black dog

I have always wanted a pet. Ever since my sister brought home Fitzy, the yappy little mongrel, I thought, yes. Finally, we are going to be normal.

But Fitzy was only ever on loan. We were looking after him while my sister arranged to buy a dog which would be an investment. It was called a Shitsu, and she got two of them. I blame the boyfriend.

I remember my dad, throwing Fitzy a tennis ball, and Allison standing back while I circled around the bouncing little bleeder, saying, Here Fitzy! Here! because that is what you say to dogs. Dad was smiling. Mum was inside the house. Things like that don’t last forever.

My depression is not a black dog. Winston Churchill used to call his that. Mine is more of a shadow, an unpleasant odour, something that clogs the pores and the nostrils.

My depression is like this: a weight on my chest, which would move, damn it, if only I had the energy to get up.

It is a vapour, that circles my body and my mind; the hint that life is bleak, that there is no point, that it would be better to just, lie down.

The reason for these gas and fluid analogies: my depression has never been a solid thing, no panting, doleful mutt. It has always been like this: a Geist, a trickster, uncannily able to get into every crack and crevice without saying a goddamn word or opening a goddamn door.

My depression makes me tired.

Here are the things that lift the cloud. I have friends who love me. I have a husband and a daughter who keep me in this world, tethered, so I can’t sink. I have intelligence, and work, and I can exercise and release the good chemicals.

I don’t want to overstate it. But I don’t want to understate it, either.

We can’t have a dog because of allergies. I don’t think it would solve the problem entirely, anyway.

But when I turn my eyes directly on him, my shadowman, he flickers, a wisp shimmering in the headlights. I name him, Ged-like, and he flees for the corners of my ceiling. There he hovers, and lurks, while I get on with living. I can do this, and he says nothing. I can do reality. Watch me burn.