Pixels, Pink Slips, and the Microdots of FatePosted: March 20, 2013
Having recently blown through half of our savings on rudely expensive medical tests, I got a night job to help de-red the family ledger. At first, I felt great about it. Not only did I feel less guilty about making us pay for tests which showed I am (except for one still-unexplained problem) very healthy, but the work, though menial, was easy, and the wage, though commensurate with the few neurons required, put a few more Cheerios in the shopping cart on payday.
The only problem was that I already had a day job, taking care of my three-year-old, and, on a couple of weeknights, an evening job, which left little time for this night job. Which left even less time for sleep. Studies show a person can go about a week without sleep before real trouble sets in. Stumbling, confusion, and hallucinations arrive sooner. Once, while running an ultramarathon, I mistook a tree stump for a bear. Not sleeping much while I had this night job felt like that. During the day, as I played with my son, our furniture took on ulterior motives. The carpet grew tidal.
In fact, so blindingly tired did I become that I realized one day I was too looped to drive my son to toddler soccer, which is a near-psychedelic experience when not sleep deprived, and I knew I’d have to quit the night job. But before I could, I got fired. Why? For falling asleep in the bathroom. I didn’t even know I had. Apparently, comfortably seated, I blacked out—microsleep, they call it, when a sleep-deprived brain temporarily shuts down. The boss thought I was a junkie. I told him I wasn’t and that I resented that derogation of my honor. He told me to get up off the floor and leave.
So, with my false dignity as co-breadwinner crushed, my true dignity as happy-go-lucky, stay-at-home dad was restored. But the first night I didn’t have to go to the night job, after readying myself for a sleep-a-thon, I found I’d developed insomnia, which persists now as I write this in the wee hours. The irony, clearly, is delicious: in trying to compensate, both financially and morally, for losses suffered in trying to determine what exactly is wrong with me, I’ve not only reset my body clock to Studio 54 time, but also rewired my brain to think I don’t need what I desperately need, or something like that.
What I do know is that trying to sleep this past week has felt like trying to weed-whack a sandbox. The usual remedies, wine and TV, have failed. I have, though, discovered a little television gem called Burn Notice, which is a cross between CSI: Miami on whippets and MacGyver on amyl nitrate. This show is so bad that wine really is like grape juice now and the waves in the carpet are getting deeper. All the crud the vacuum won’t suck up surfs there in the blue light of the flatscreen as the preternaturally-insipid characters on Burn Notice speak the oracles of my new sleepless fate. Though I’ve come to vaguely appreciate the show is part-spoof, my sleep-deprived mind has nevertheless worked up the following Pynchonesque explanation for both the show’s existence and now my own: deep in a Burbank studio, a shorn-banged evildoer devises torture tactics he calls television shows. A master of solvents, he transmits these shows through my carpet, into the crouching corner armchair, and out the microdotted light flickering from the television to my retinas, a blue glow reminiscent of industrial-standard rubber gloves that just happen to be my size. Has my life become a PBS-spinoff of Breaking Bad? I don’t know, but thankfully at 3 a.m. there’s still Twitter, and valerian is on sale next week at the grocery store. Why didn’t I go to med school?
for the Angst Blotter:
Rode out the wee hours of another hallucination-ridden night of insomnia writing this post to end a brief blogging layoff with the full intentions of returning soon to my regularly-scheduled programming: posts about fatherhood and the sweetness of angst.