I’ve always loved going to bed early. I love how the underside of my eyelids burn orange against the dwindling sunshine. I love that it feels warmer to fall asleep while it’s still daytime. I love that it feels like I have a head start on a tomorrow. I love racing to unconsciousness.
Going to bed while there is still light is a ritual dating back to when I was old enough to notice the changing of the day into evening. When I was little, starting around 8, I would bundle myself claustrophobically with a bounty of stuffed animals, Barbies, and two different sweatshirts (one grey and one navy blue). Like all nervous and lonely children, the comfort of these creatures provided the escape from life I so desperately craved. My sweet silent friends spoke directly into my brain along with the sweatshirts who had names. We were molded into a mountain, and we’d gather warmth from the sunlight. Lonesome feels different when it's light out.
In bed, with all my friends, I would pretend that the bed was a boat, and the floor was a large river, and we were all stranded together in the middle, getting taken by the current to somewhere unknown. I never felt alone while together in the boat even though my crew and I were too far away from any shore to get rescued. Protected by the pretend, I would fall asleep imagining that the stuffed animals were taking care of me while I slipped into sleep. And dove grey evenings were a lullaby with a bedtime starting as early as 6:30 PM or 7:00 PM if I could, except during winters when I would struggle with the night sky and keep a lamp on the nightstand on all night.
In the mornings, my baby fine fig hair would be stuck to my cheeks always covered in sticky candy gloss from the day before, and arms wrapped around the bunched sweatshirts. Huddled under the tower of pals, my eyes would bat open to find their friendly faces in the glow of the morning sun, a brightness not so different from the one I fell asleep to.
Delight in imagination, I was always happiest existing within dreams while either asleep or awake. And I, like so many young people, decided I wanted to have an interesting life. But I never stopped to consider that an interesting life does not always equal a happy life.
The pivot away from childhood followed a string that led to a curious existence. A life that lacked stability, and structure, and security. The greatest safety I found as the Fates cut and tied my future was in going to bed early. Long slumber has always been there for me.
I have been bummed out lately. And it is not just because I put my phone in the microwave instead of the coffee I wanted to reheat ten minutes ago. And it’s not just because of the bitter tasting heartache of another start-over, where I wished for a composite collage of photo booth moments but instead collected scenes made in public spaces with my face blood red from embarrassment. It’s not just because my whiskey-voiced blonde bouffant Aunt Bonnie died before I could say goodbye. It’s not just because I got food poisoning on the day I got the news of her passing. It’s not just because my beloved cat, Easy Mac, has been sick. It’s not because I gave up on dry January after getting back into contact with a person responsible for previous embarrassents. It’s not just because the dark days feel endless.
It's not these things in the way that the waves of similar sorrows seem never ending sometimes. I’ve been bummed recently. But I’ve been bummed before and clawed my way out of it. I have also been happy and know that joy is always on the horizon, ever so faintly out of reach. But it will arrive. Maybe this is the cost of an interesting life.
Easy Mac has been sick during the days of my bummedness. She is an elegant Spyhnx cat with a marking around her eye that reminds me of my favorite comic book character, Domino. I have loved her for ten years. Under blankets while she purrs, I like to hold one of her paws. She has been one of the greatest delights of my life, unexpected grace in a world of disorder. Easy Mac has always made me feel special even though when she and I were both younger, she would occasionally sneeze in my hair and I wouldn’t notice until the next morning. Hand on my hand, grossed out while she continued to sleep in the warm gulf of where my body imprinted the sheets. I hate to see her not feeling well. I feed her in bed while she sleeps among the relics of my past: a dalmatian stuffed animal named Spotsy, a bean bag teddy bear named Theo, an oversized sweatshirt—black instead of the long gone grey and navy ones, and a flower print blanket that I bunch and hold in sleep. I jokingly call myself her nursemaid. And among the sorrow, there is joy in helping her.
I’ve been going to bed earlier and earlier within the last two months, in the wake of all the bummed. I repeat the behavior of the ghost of myself, a child of 8, and struggle to beat the sunset, shuttering my eyes until a new day can greet me.
Last night, among the final flame of a pink sky, I sat in bed with Easy Mac under her many blankets, sweatshirts, and our comfort items. We traveled through time together, different eras of ourselves. I read a book out loud about a Hollywood starlet and Easy Mac slept next to me, warm and purring.
Before I fell asleep, before the sky could change over to ink blotches, in the warmth of the bed and the ease of our time together, her little paw in my hand, some of the sadness faded away. And I pretended that she and I were in a boat in the middle of a large river. We were protected by pretend, buoyant in the strong current. And we were on our destination to nowhere.
In the morning, we both woke up to a warm sun, never so different from the days before.
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