It’s happening again. That’s why I’m writing you. Sometimes I don’t think I need sleep at all. It’s not insomnia. Maybe working nights does this to a person, makes their body forget the need to sleep. “Listen,” I tell myself sometimes. “Look, there’s no reason to sleep if you don’t require rest.” And I don’t, see — that’s the strangest thing. I work 10-hour shifts in the warehouse of a quilt company (they make comforters too, blankets, even kitchen towels — if you want any I can score you a discount) and when I come home, the sunrise bright against the garage doors of my neighbors’ homes, I think, “What will I do today?” not, “I can’t wait to curl up in bed and sleep.”
Maybe a few weeks have gone by like this, awake. Yes, that sounds right, a few weeks, maybe a month or so has gone by without sleep. After work, I try to slip into bed and pull the covers over me, but that’s when I notice it the most — this energy, this urgency to move, to pace the rooms of my house and wonder about things: you, the dog I left behind. Sometimes I call people I’ve nearly forgotten and tell them about things they’ve certainly forgot, like Jimmy Eado, do you remember Jimmy? I called him a while back and said, “Jimmy, it’s Lee, from high school.”
And he said, “Who?”
So I reminded him of that one time during senior year when he put that rose on Maria’s windshield and wrote a note asking her to prom, traced your signature on it, and how when Ashley found out and told her brother he almost broke your shoulder with a baseball bat, and Jimmy said, “I have kids now, man, I don’t remember anything past their births,” and he hung up real quick because, well, you know, he probably still feels horrible about what he did to you, to us back then, and sometimes it’s harder to say sorry than it is to just hang up.
Listen, it’s weird, I even visited the doctor. He told me all my vitals were normal. I don’t know if he actually said vitals. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if I ever even went to a clinic at all. Maybe I just watched a show about doctors and I’m putting myself in the television. You ever do that? I work with this nutcase, this real looney, says he sees the eyes of God in camera lenses. Can you believe that? He’s always taking pictures of people doing things they shouldn’t in the warehouse. Just a few days ago he got Adam fired, so Adam stole his camera and smashed it with a mallet the size of your arm. It makes me wonder if God’s blind now, and how stupid that thought is, as if He even needed eyes to begin with.
Sometimes I think maybe I really am sleeping. Maybe my, I don’t know, soul, let’s say, leaves my body when I’m in deep sleep, and all I’m doing is dreaming of walking through my house and the neighborhood, maybe the clouds which roll past the kitchen window as I cook myself breakfast and read and listen to talk radio are only dream clouds. And the breakfast is only dream breakfast; the words from the radio are only dream words.
So I think, “OK, maybe, if I’m quiet enough, I can sneak up on my body sleeping in the next room.” But when I jump out from the hallway into my bedroom, there’s no one there, only me, awake and alive and well, and I eat and the salt I shake over my eggs isn’t dreamed, it’s real. I can taste the difference.
So maybe I’m a ghost, and people can still see me for some reason. Maybe I died but no one knows it. If I had a camera I’d take a picture and see if I was there, to prove it to myself, but I don’t have a camera. Write back to me. Write me something dull, something boring, an update about your life, and maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to sleep through the days again. I’ll sit here and wait for your letter. I’ll sit here and wait for you.
— Mason Schoen is a creative writing graduate student.