Waking Sleep

pavel-volkov-146608I’ve started sleeping where and when I can, seeing as I can’t at night.

I sleep with my keys between my knuckles, and I clench my jaw. My dentist has noticed this and suggested I wear a bite guard. I don’t think I can remember to put my bite guard in when I am on the tube or the bus. It takes away from the appearance of instability that I am hoping will ward off potential perverts, thieves and weirdos.

I have started sleeping on the tube and the bus.

I will plan my journeys and leave an hour earlier. The motion is soothing. Today I have to go and see friends, something that becomes harder and harder to want to do. I cannot back out. I’ve done that too many times. Plus seeing people in the real world is the only thing that is helping me to distinguish between dreams and reality. I often feel as if nothing around me is real. Everything is a burst of noise, or colour, that weaves in and out of silence.

I have started to blank out. My dad thinks my rudeness has reached new levels. I drift in and out of conversations, indifferently, as if bored. I suppose I am bored. I don’t mean to be rude though. I am trying to participate. Today I have 20 minutes on the Jubilee and 20 minutes on the Central line.The whooshing through tunnels and rocking motion is comforting. I sleep soundly on the tube. I think in part it is because I am surrounded by people. I have never liked sleeping alone.

When I get close to my stop I check my watch. I still have 20 minutes before I need to be here. What do I do? In the past I have found the nearest park and gone to sleep on the grass, but sleeping in public places provokes unnecessary concern. The looks on the faces of mothers with young children, elderly women asking if I’m ok, and on one occasion in New York, I was moved along by a police officer on horseback.He thought I was homeless. Or drunk. Why can’t you sleep in a park? In all honesty I am unsure to this day, if that actually happened, or if it had been a very lucid dream. I can still hear sound of the hoof beats behind me as I walked away.

This is a familiar feeling among insomniacs. Deja vu. Surreality of the most mundane situations. The uncertainty. Normally, these thoughts flit through my mind in milliseconds, but I take time to relive them in my head. By the time I remember that I was meant to get off the train, I have already gone 4 stops ahead of my stop.

I check my watch: 5 minutes. I disembark and cross the platform to get the next train back. ‘Cloak and Dagger’ is playing on my iPod and everyone on the platform seems to be moving in time to the music. It’s like being underwater. I get off the train without contemplating what I am doing this time. I like watching people with my iPod on. My friends haven’t arrived yet, so I get to watch couples wander off, hand in hand, down Roman Road. Tourists make me take out my headphones so I can inform them that I don’t know the way to Hackney, or Shoreditch. A groups of friends laugh at an ageing hipster dressed in hammer pants and a gold flat cap pushing a scooter past the pub where they are drinking. Finally, a hand taps me on the shoulder and I switch off my iPod.

I spend the day with my friends, walking talking, eating, drinking. I talk too much. It has been a while since I had a face to face conversation with someone. A real conversation, not an argument, desperate excuses, or telling a telesales person to piss off. My dream conversations are often too vague to remember.  I talk a lot, then remind myself to shut up. Silence often scares me. Not because I don’t enjoy moments of quiet, but because I often fear I will disconnect from reality. That I will unconsciously put my headphones in. Dwell on things I shouldn’t think about, or try to figure out things that have no answer.

I wasted too much time on Facebook. Goodbye mid-twenties. I would complete mundane questionnaires to detract from the fact that I had been alone for over 5 days, and had not physically spoken to anyone. The times I had spoken to someone, I had not been sober. It’s strange how the dialogues that take place online I often experience audibly in my head. I imagine the voices as if it were a real conversation. I forget that it’s not. I had overlooked the fact that a chunk of my life was virtual, until I spent one afternoon deleting old apps off my account. It was sad to read how I had filled in hours alone. Which celebrity do you look like? Which Friends character are you? What kind of old person will you be? What kind of men do you like? I didn’t take them seriously, and really it was simply a lazy way to entertain myself when television had nothing to offer but romantic vampire serials. Nevertheless, it reads like I need a series of dumbed down apps to tell me the kind of person I am and what I like and don’t like. Maybe I did. It was easier than participating in life. Easier than having to deal with who may or may not like who you are. It is an easier way to live when you’re tired of your mind, or your head is cloudy.

When faced with real people I talk long and enthusiastically about anything. I am tasteless. I am knowledgeable. I am opinionated. I am understanding. I change the subject. I keep the conversation going. I wonder if I will ever be able to sit in silence with someone. Or if I will always have to be loud, or sarcastic, or funny. I don’t like it when people ask me if I’m ok because I’m quiet.

No need to say it’s time to go. We simultaneously put our jackets on and leave the comfort of the pub for the train station. It’s a natural end to the day. We say our goodbyes, hug, make plans to meet again and make our separate ways on the tube.

Adrenaline stops me from sleeping on the journey home. I feel awake. Everyone on the tube looks greenish, the lighting on the tube does that. I catch the person in front of me staring and I stare back. Embarrassed, he suddenly starts pouring over something on his phone, but not before a quick look to check I stopped looking back at him. I hadn’t. He gets off at the next stop. I look at people’s faces as they read the paper, hold their children, hold hands, doze off drunkenly. The sun is setting and as we leave the tunnel faces go from green to gold. Eyes squint. The train feels silent as I get off at my stop.

When I get home I sit quietly and watch television. I listen to the conversations around the house. The voices of my family mixed in with the television and the sound and scent of onions frying. I go to bed and stare at the ceiling. I stare at the strange shapes and peeling wallpaper and overthink things I shouldn’t give time to. My mind goes back to a conversation I had with a friend. I question what I want from life, who I am, why I haven’t found someone to love. I check my watch. It’s 4 o’clock. I try to sleep. I dream about a conversation between me and a boy I loved once. It’s calming, I feel close to someone. It makes me cry. I wake up and make myself a cup of tea. I finish it then brush my teeth.

I check my clock. 6.05.

I cannot go back to sleep.

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