Now Comes the Battle

by Russ

Falling asleep is never the problem, it’s staying asleep that’s the struggle. Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes before my brain turns on me. An unseen pursuer and a door that won’t open; an approaching threat and restraints that won’t give; a carriage derailed and overturned as it plunges underwater. I’ll fight and shriek and wrench myself out. My heart will begin to slow, then race anew in the hazy after-seconds as I remember my brother was there but not here. Left to perish in the scene I’ve ripped only myself from (selfish). As the world trickles in, I’ll wonder if now is too late on the clock to reply to his text. Then clarity will chase him away and leave only the aftertaste of something left undone.

Now comes the battle.

Once cogs are whirring it’s no good to lie in the dark and hope. Thoughts connect too rapidly and there are new flutters of agitation; floating memories of regret, scabs which never heal because I keep scratching them; sinking doubts over decisions, past and future; those thousand tiny tests I’ve failed each day, never the ones I’ve passed; the looming threat of new things I need to blunder my way through, or worse, those I know exactly how to perform and can’t find a way to avoid (the pressing weight of what a self-important prick I am). Did I turn off the hob?

Of course, there are distractions to break the cycle: a laptop, a phone, a book, the fact I haven’t changed these bedsheets in, an amount of time. Light is worse than thought though, surely? There’s no sense in trying to unbalance your attacker by stabbing yourself.

There’s always the other world, the middle consciousness, the one I can control, imagining in the dark. How might that faded opportunity play out if I speak up with the right words this time? How might a lost relationship develop if I redeck the cards and play them in exactly the right order? If I’m lucky these daydreams will fade to nightdreams and the problem is solved. Unlucky, and they’ll reach a conclusion.

I’ll resort to base, of course, to coarse, to fantasy. A kiss, a tongue, a breast, a bum. Lower the thoughts to lower the consciousness (pretentious). Move the blood from my brain. Give a fuck to stop giving a fuck. Animals never have trouble sleeping (stop thinking). I think therefore I am awake (this is getting out of hand).

Then, there’s giving in.

Lights, kettle, action. A hot drink and something to occupy the time until the window view turns black to blue. Or grey, as is more likely the case. There’s satisfaction in paired socks or authors stacked in order; a shopping list or tidy drawer; a crossword completed or last page turned.

There might even be a calm.

It’s not the same as a full eight hours though, or six, or even four.