Once upon a time, in this life of some other, at some point, somewhere, I was unlucky enough to have a curse put on me. I don’t know what I did to deserve this curse but then, no-one deserves anything, and life exists within the context of two irreconcilable realities- the wonderful and miraculous and the terrible and cruel, and it is our failing as a species that a spectrum of this size does not fit neatly into our field of vision and so in many ways our reality is actually incomprehensible to us. But a curse! A curse fell like an apple from the terrible/cruel side of the tree and hit me on the head.
There are worse curses, but I cannot imagine what they might be. There are comparable curses, perhaps- the curse of the external processor- having to process all of one’s feelings and the complex minutia of day-to-day living with whoever might be in the room. The curse of the depressive- for those who have been stitched entirely from heavy, damp wool, and tossed into a world devoid of significance.
My curse was the curse of the cuddle insomniac.
I was given a curse wherein I would not be able to sleep when in bed with another person. I can sleep alone, yes, more often than not, and for this I am grateful, but with another person- it is as if their very existence is reason enough to be wakeful. My god, this person is living and breathing! Dear jesus, the miracle of life! How can I sleep when I am barely a foot away from the sprawling multitudes of heaven and earth, neatly encapsulated in this warm living skin? Oh, for the love of freckles! And so I lie wakeful, long after they have fallen asleep.
And then, in the morning, when the first birds sing, and a breeze blows the curtains, and my bed-mate barely stirs- Oh, what is this radiant heat? What sleeping hands are these, with their warm soft palms? These arms! So long and folded! I will wear them as a shawl, and it will be everything that sleep is not. Oh, but it hurts my neck to lie this way! Perhaps I will roll away, and sleep some more. Nevermind, I am awake!
And so it goes.
And then, of course, dear fate, the people I grow fond of are the ones who value sleeping with a lover more than almost nearly everything, and for sure it is for them one of the very topmost reasons for having a lover at all. Oh, and it pains them! I try to explain my curse, I paint elaborate pictures in the air of the trials and tribulations of my cuddle insomnia, of how it hurts me, of why I must sleep alone, many nights, if I wish to be productive or focused at all in my day-to-day life, if I do not wish to simply fall into a downward spiral of sleep deprivation, unmotivated anxiety, and exhaustion.
But they do not understand! They wring their hands. Why don’t I want to sleep with them at night, in their bed, with the gentle breeze in the curtains, and everything so pleasant? Why am I depriving them of this thing that is so meaningful and wonderful and beautiful and precious? Aren’t we going to have babies together someday? Aren’t we going to fuck on a bear rug? Aren’t we going to go to Haiti?
But yes! I exclaim. Lover! We are going to do all of these things. Only let me explain! But the words are like marbles and they fall all over the floor and jumble against each other and do nothing, and a small sliver of misunderstanding grows between us, a tiny elephant in the dim corner of the room. And I will starve the elephant! I will sleep over ever night until I am exhausted! I will forgo the sweet peace of my lonesome sleeps, in my big ship-bed, in order that the tiny elephant might starve. But the elephant does not starve! And my bad boundaries only make the misunderstanding stronger, and the elephant grows! So I will slay the elephant! But the elephant has become solid, as if made of hardwood. So I will burn the elephant! But the elephant does not burn, because it is a cursed elephant! So I will set out on an epic quest to find the answer to my curse. I will wear all my best wool and carry three months’ worth of sext-messages for sustenance, printed out on sheets of birch-bark, wrapped in a red hanky, tucked into my left back pocket. For company I will bring my new housemate’s old cat, who is black with yellow eyes, just like an animatronic TV cat from the nineties, and who yowls like a dog when you eat turkey sandwiches. I will leave in the spring, after the crocuses, but before the cherry blossoms. Am I getting the order confused? Betwixt the daffodils and the tulips? When the willow buds are prime for salve-making? That is when I will leave. I will build a raft from planks torn from the sides of condemned houses and float up the Willamette, towards the mercury-rich waters of the Columbia. Each day it will rain, but the rain will be warm, because it is spring, and this is how you tell spring from winter. I will light my raft with stolen beeswax tealights in clusters of mason jars, and every day I will write my intentions on pieces of birch-bark and burn them in the jars.
today I will see a heron.
today I will catch a fish, and deign not to eat it.
today I will leave text range.
today I will reach the ocean.
At the ocean the cat and I will be sucked out by the tides and we will float for weeks, on that pure big mass, in whatever direction it is that the currents pull us, perhaps into the north pacific gyre and the island of trash that lives there, where we might find objects with which to build a new life, or sodden textbooks that teach us celestial navigation, that we might escape. Eventually we’ll find our way to Siberia, the cat and I, grown very thin and weathered, and there on the wind-swept shores we’ll meet an old woman who lives in a hut built of smooth stones mortared together will moss, and she will take us in and feed us bone broth thick with caribou hairs and tallow. And I’ll sleep for forty days and nights on a shelf of rock laid over with skins, and the cat and I will have visions. And in our visions an endless night that is sort of like death will spread out in all directions for as far as we can see and we’ll wake startled, terrified, the crusts of tears on our cheeks and in the corners of our eyes. The woman will be rolling wicks of reindeer moss for her seal-oil lamps and she will look up at us, wise, and she will say
Sleep is not death, you know.
And I will be cured.