In the Company of Insomnia

September 28

Tara sat in the armchair by her bedroom window, unable to fall asleep.  The evening had slipped into night, exchanging her lavender gown for a black velvet cloak, switching on tiny lamps in the sky because she is afraid of the dark, nudging the moon with her toe, slowly rolling it to the top, from where it shone whitely onto Tara’s window, where she sat with her insomnia in her lap.

The silence stands just behind her, softly breathing melancholy thoughts into her ears, like a selfish lover whose love has atrophied into jealousy and insanity, no longer warm and comforting, instead distant, foreign, painful because of the memory of their closeness that now taunts.

It is when her house falls quiet and the neighborhood too crawls into bed, when the eagles are swaying in their sleep on tall coconut trees, when the crickets have exhausted all conversation, it is in the blaring quiet of the deep night that Tara’s insomnia sidles out from under her bed and comes to lie down with her, heavy, invisible, eventually coming to sit on her forehead, her shoulders, her chest till finally she gets up and comes to sit on the armchair.

She watches patiently, resignedly, as her insomnia conjures up her past, waving a wand in the air, reconstructing images of her life gone by, Remember your brother who left when you were 12?  it asks, and you wonder if you were 12 or younger, remember when you and your friends were chased by your music teacher all around the school?  and your smile is faint because the pain of it all being over is stronger, because the pain of so much more being over – your children grown up, impatient at best, distant at worst, your husband who lives in the same house in a separate room in a different cloud of dreams and memories. When did you become too old for dreams, for idealism, too old to change the world and make it a better place?

Remember when you used to put your head in your mother’s lap while she was sitting on the jaeye-namaz? Remember when your children did the same to you?  Too tired to fight with the bully sitting on her, she just nods.

They say insomnia increases with age, and I wonder as we grow old, do we start to dream just of our past? The fears of our childhood carrying into our adult life, exams we never studied for, remembering we had to catch a flight ten minutes before the departure, driving a car without brakes, all our teeth falling out, the things we boil over but can never say in real life because we are too prudent, too scared, too nice, too ashamed but in the security of our dreams we shout them out, loud, violent, tearful…

Do the lines between our thoughts, memories and dreams start to blur because the nerve cells in our brain too are aging, associations and connections frail like frayed wires, will insomnia slowly darken into paranoia?

Poor Tara, sitting in the midst of her memories, suffocating in the dusty breath of the past, waiting for the sun to walk up and kick the moon away, sounding the alarms for the birds and the trees, pushing the silence away, sweeping light and noise into her room so she can finally lie down, exhausted, as her insomnia follows close behind, slipping beneath her bed, claws drawn for the time being.


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