Insomnia: Desperate Desire to Doze
July 2003

Insomnia: In Which: Dwanollah (Immersed in Yet Another Semester of her Summer Lit. Program) Confronts Dreams, Demons, and Deepest Fears… Despite Desperate Desire to Doze.

The battle usually begins – depending on if I’ve slipped into an Inadvertent Nap ‘round 2 o’clock in the afternoon or not – about 8:30ish. Without fail, I am ensconced in my dorm room, fan on high, glitter-lamp swirling, hunkered over whatever books/critical articles/papers/notes are on the agenda for tomorrow’s classes and/or projects. I study doggedly, working until I can’t keep my eyelids from hanging like broken window-blinds. At last. Bleary, muddle-headed, I can go to bed. I’ll be able to sleep. This time, for sure. Yes.

10:30 Since I’m usually already decked out in my comfiest t-shirt (This year’s favorite? “My Barbies Are Lesbians”) and pj bottoms, all I have to do is slide cozily under my pink chenille bedspread and nestle back onto my extra-firm pillow and sleep. Sheets are cool. Ah. Good. Lights out.

10:31 Arrange two pillows just so. Without The Husband-Type Man to cuddle next to, one pillow must be placed on “his” side of the bed to roll against. Sling arm over pillow. Close eyes.

10:33 Forgot to take Zoloft. Swallow Little Blue Pill of Much Salvation. Spill bottle. Turn light back on, clean up scattered pills, cap bottle tightly.

10:34 Turn light back out.

10:35 Re-arrange two pillows. Commence deep breathing.

10:36 Start thinking about Pinocchio, three chapters of which remain unread – okay, I admit, unskimmed – for tomorrow morning’s class. Had planned on getting up at 7 to finish. Decide that’s not good enough. Turn on light. Reset alarm for 6 instead.

10:39 Isn’t it irresponsible, and perhaps Bad Scholastic Karma, to leave such work to the last minute? Won’t everyone in class know I’m a Bad Student?

10:40 This is why I didn’t get into a Ph.D. program, isn’t it? They heard I procrastinate. They send memos about me and my shoddy academic habits from one learning institution to another, don’t they?

10:45 Fuck it. I’ll read for a few minutes until I settle down.

10:46 Turn on light again. Re-arrange pillows to prop self up. Pick up heavy, critical edition of Le Avventure di Pinocchio, and commence reading translated portion of text.

10:49 Have question about Italian idiom. Get up and rummage around desk for Italian & English dictionary.

10:51 Discover that the phrase that equates to the English “not know which way to turn” is literally translated in Italian as “not know which fish to catch” or “non sapere che pesci pigliare.” Interestingly enough, “pigliare” means both “to catch” and “to make a mistake,” so when a fisherman catches Pinocchio in a next and mistakes him for a crab, it’s a hilarious literal play on the idiom- Okay, so, trust me, it’s very Deep and Meaningful when in the throes of exhaustion.

11:08 Nodding off over book. Mark new place. Throw on floor. Turn out light.

11:09 Re-arrange pillows. Flop on left side. Huff.

11:11 Bug bite on foot. Scratch.

11:12 Scratch again.

11:13 Sit up and scratch foot violently.

11:14 Roll onto right side.

11:14: 30 sec Too hot. Kick left leg out from under blanket. Better.

11:16 Damned bug bite!

11:18 Wait! Don’t I have to read an essay on Kenneth Grahame and The Pastoral in Children’s Lit?

11:18, 23 sec No, no, the essay’s for my other class.

11:18, 27 sec Isn’t it?

11:18, 32 sec What class do I even HAVE tomorrow, anyway?!

11:18: 40 sec Turn on light. Rummage in bag. Find folders. Check syllabi. Okay, essay is for Boys’ Lit, day after tomorrow. Tomorrow is my class in The Fantastic in Children’s Lit. Replace folders. Turn light back out.

11:20 Re-arrange pillows.

11:21 What the HELL am I going to do for my class presentation project for The Fantastic in Children’s Lit?! Why did I even TAKE this class!? I don’t read fantasy! I don’t KNOW fantasy! I know I was thinking about examining the fantastic allusions in Mary Downing Hahn’s The Wind Blows Backward, to see how framing the story as a fantastic tale, rather than a realistic problem novel, might alter things, might make Lauren’s patheticness appear somehow heroic or put a different spin on what I perceive as gross sexism or something, but for Gawd’s sake, everyone else is doing all this in-depth stuff on “the faces of evil as portrayed in fantasy picture books” or “time-travel as a coming-of-age motif in YA adventure novels”!

11:23 WHY HAVEN’T I STARTED HARDCORE RESEARCH ON THIS PAPER AND PROJECT?! Never mind that the books I need aren’t here yet! I’m gonna have maybe four full days to pull it together! I don’t know what I’m doing!

11:24 Oh, God, what if I fail this class? Can I get an extension or an incomplete instead?

11:25 I simply can NOT think about a paper right now! I have to sleep! The alarm is going off in six-and-a-half hours! I’m barely going to be able to function as it is!

11:26 Chewing on cuticles commences.

11:28 Chewing on cuticles ceases when, upon tearing out cuticle with teeth, finger starts stinging and begins to bleed.

11:29 Roll back to left side. Cuddle up next to Husband-Placement Pillow. Pillow is nowhere NEAR as satisfying as THTM’s Rumpus, Back and Shoulderly Region.

11:30 Wonder what THTM is doing right now. Picture him futzing in his office, sprawled on the couch eating one of his Grody Snack Food Combinations. Remember the time he put pink and blue cake icing on stale marshmallows for a nighttime snack. Snicker. Marvel at his inherent weirdness.

11:31 Think about THTM’s shoulder. Like to kiss it when cuddled up against his back. His skin smells nice.

11:32 Think about how, every night, THTM clasps my hand in his and squeezes my fingers when he’s falling asleep.

11:33 And nestles his feet against mine.

11:33: 40 sec I really hate not sleeping with THTM. Snuggle face into pillow, trying to approximate level of coziness that is THTM in Bed.

11:34 Half-smile. Thinking about THTM’s Crooked Nose. And the divot in his chin. I like to tease him that someone didn’t replace the turf when they teed off on his chin. Try not to think about how long it’s been since I got to kiss that ticklish spot on his neck.

11:35 Begin feeling truly pathetic, in earnest. Missing THTM so much. Want to tickle him and wonky his hair.

11:36 Count days and hours until he comes to visit me for my birthday weekend. Decide that, due to Bad Karma from not studying enough, and therefore not being a Worthy Person, THTM is in danger of dying in a plane crash on his way to visit.

11:37 Feeling incredibly, increasingly superstitious and irrational. Begin counting up my Bad Deeds and all the many ways in which I Suck as a human being, because this will surely affect THTM’s travel.

11:38 Thought of losing THTM is horrific. Tear plunks on pillow. Then another.

11:39 Realize, and not for the first time, that I am prolly only one crucial step away from Obsessive-Compulsive. Or Professional Victim. Or some other horrific Manifestation of pop-psychology/talk-show mentality/overly-medicated American Society. Good Gawd.

11:39: 35 sec Feel horrifically guilty about bottle of Zoloft on nightstand. Remember medical allergy that kicked off panic attacks almost 10 years ago. Try to convince self that am NOT a Dr. Phil loving, Melody Beattie reading, Dr. Laura-listening, non-critical thinking weak-willed little-girl-woman.

11:40 I mean, if I’m going to worry about anything, maybe I should worry about the fact that I have to do two papers and two projects in about three weeks’ time.

11:41 And the deadline for the Francelia Butler Conference is, like, next fucking week. And I have no idea what to submit!

11:42 Yeah, there’s the Independent Study that I’m working on, for the critical book I’m writing, but maybe I can’t use an Independent Study paper?

11:43 I wrote a paper on Künstlerroman issues in Norma Klein books last summer. That’s eligible for the conference. It’s about how coming of age sexually for Klein’s artist characters is linked to coming of age artistically. It’s not a superlative paper, but it’s okay. And it’s a pretty untapped critical area. I should just submit that.

11:44 But if I can pull together this paper on Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess and displaced monarchy and active versus passive heroes from a gendered perspective in Victorian fiction for my Boys’ Lit class, that’d be a LOT better, wouldn’t it?

11:46 I’ll want to emphasize the Victorian convention of inherent nobility, of course. Burnett’s implication was, in part, that certain people are “more fit” to be princes/princesses/little lords because of their “inherent nobility,” not solely their social class, birth status, and that sort of thing.

11:47 Hey! Mark Twain was saying the same thing in The Prince and the Pauper, too, wasn’t he? Could I do something on Cedric and Tom and Edward…?

11:48 Turn on light. Reach for pencil and notebook on nightstand. Write cryptic notes to myself before everything is forgotten. Begin to rough an outline. Put strategically-placed scribbled stars next to a few points, for tomorrow’s trip to the library. Almost wish the library was open all night, like at some large universities. Not like I can sleep anyway.

12:03 Turn out light. Fix pillows.

12:04 Realize that I will never, ever get this paper done in time for the Franny Butler submission deadline on Friday. Decide not to submit anything this year. Less pressure.

12:05 I mean, I won the Franny Butler last summer! Wasn’t that good enough?

12:06 Unless I’m afraid I can’t do it again. Because I suck.

12:07 Am I coping out? Don’t I owe it to myself – and to Elizabeth, my mentor and advisor – to participate?

12:07: 17 sec After all, why else did I apply to this program?

12:07: 19 sec My vita needs all the help it can get.

12:07: 22 sec No wonder I didn’t get into any Ph.D. programs. Again.

12:08 But my paper from the Butler conference actually got PUBLISHED and broke new critical ground for Alcott AND Montgomery studies, and it was rushed into the best critical journal for Montgomery studies in academia!

12:08: 12 sec Of course, there are only about seven people, myself included, in academia, who care about Montgomery studies. Obviously. The article didn’t get me into any Ph.D. programs, did it?

12:09 Surely a round of Compulsive Eating will help this situation.

12:09: 30 sec No wonder I’m such a fat fucking slob.

12:10 Fat and stupid and lazy. I rule. *sigh* How many of the Seven Deadly Sins can be squeezed into one putting-the-“erotic”-in-neurotic sardonic bitch?

12: 11 Turn on light. Get up. Trip over book. Make way to Standard Dorm Room Mini-fridge. Make a peanut butter sandwich and pour a glass of milk. Read another few pages of Pinocchio while eating.

12: 17 Make another half-sandwich from heel of bread loaf.

12:20 Eye bottle of Unisom. Know that if I take one now, I’ll never be able to wake myself up fully for class tomorrow, much less at six in the freaking morning.

12: 23 Fwap blanket to straighten it out. Smooth sheet. Re-arrange pillows. Turn out light and get into bed.

12:24 Close eyes. Try to use old time-worn cure for insomnia, and picture self sleeping in most relaxing setting. Mmmm… deserted beach, not unlike the Playa del Amor, where we played for a long afternoon when we were in Cabo San Lucas once.

12:25 Smell of salt water. Rushing, muted crash of waves. Floating in warm water, rocked by the motion of the sea…

12:26 Not quite sure how I’ve ended up thinking about needing to finish that one Jack Zipes book before comps.

12:27 Motion of sea. Yes. Sun baking down, breeze cool. Mmmmm….

12:32 Realize that brain is trying to analyze the homoerotic subtexts in The Wind in The Willows, but keeps substituting Brady Bunch characters for Mole and Rat and Toad instead because am almost half-asleep. Of course, upon realizing this, am no longer almost half-asleep.

12:36 *sigh*

12:39 *roll* and *mumble*

12: 56“…my paper on Frances Hodgson Burnett. Burnett’s characters, like Tom Canty and Norma Klein, have had a profound influence-” “I’m not being rude, but,” Simon Cowell interrupts me, “Norma Klein and Tom Canty aren’t Burnett characters. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about!” “I’m sorry, I actually thought she was a scholar,” Elizabeth, my mentor and favorite instructor (but she looks like my mom instead of like herself), tells him. Onstage, I blink and try not to cry. I look down and realize that, instead of the suit I usually wear at conferences, I’m dressed in a tropical-print muu muu. If I can just get off-stage! If I can just get out of here, I’ll be okay! I take a few steps to the side, but, shit! I didn’t realize there were stairs here! I trip, and am falling… falling… falling…

1:08 With a *jump* and *startle*, I “land” on my bed. Good freaking fuck.

1:10 I give up. I surrender. There’s no way I can sleep now. Freakin’ A.

1:11 Turn on computer. Yeah. I knew there was a reason why I brought The Sims with me…. And tomorrow (well, more like today) is anothah day… and hopefully will allow time for a nice, long nap….

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