Jason always laughs at the places I will sleep. When tiredness beckons, I have the Sandman on speed dial. Give me a floor of an airport and a jacket to ball up into a pillow and I'm snoring in five minutes flat. Give me a ride in the passenger seat of the car and you can rest assured I will sleep more than wake. I imagine him awake, tired, and staring warily at the soft snores that come from my unconscious self.
The thing about my sleep that's always fascinated me is the black of my nights; a black that is void of dreams. It sounds boring, but I assume that my brain is working so hard in the daylight that upon hitting the pillow my mind is prepared for some down time. I don't mind the restful darkness, often it's refreshing after the color of all my days.
My nights were black until the nightmares started coming regularly. I think the first one was about two weeks ago. It had to do with my mom and I fighting, I was upset, I woke with a heart racing and mean words caught in my throat. I thought it was isolated, but then they kept happening. Different nightmares, the same emotional whirlwind blowing chaotically through my sleeping body.
Last night I woke with tears streaming down my face. I was stuck in Mexico, Jason and my family on a boat away to a beautiful island. Me on shore with a driver's license that said Nina and accusations that I'm an identity thief. I didn't know how I was going to see them again and I cried. I cried and cried until I woke because my face was wet.
I usually fall right back asleep. I usually manage to lull myself back into a beautiful slumber. But I couldn't this time. I laid in the depths of darkness and listened to my heart beat thick in my ears. I laid there and I wondered why some nightmares don't subside.
I thought of the conversation my mom and I had while we ran just the other day. She said, "I hope this whole thing with Dad is our big bang. I hope this is all the heartbreak one life has to hold." I nodded and then I suppressed the urge to knock on every tree and wood fence I could find as we headed back towards the house. Besides being sleepy, I'm superstitious.
I want life to work like that: a big bang and then living. I want to have to work through surviving, reviving, and thriving in a life that's different and new looking only one time in this life. But I know that's not how things work. I know lives that are marked by tragedy in the way the freeway has those yellow lines down its middle. I know lives that are beautiful and dreamy, never shaken and stirred.
So I lay there at 2:00 am, sleepy tears drying on my cheeks and I wonder: what's there to do when the nightmares won't subside?
It's breathing. Simply breathing -the in and out, in and out of your rising and falling diaphragm- as a reminder that you're alive whether you feel like it or not. It's letting your heart beat and your muscles burn. It's knowing you hurt all over, inside and out, because you're breathing. It's letting that sound of air escaping your lungs be your comfort. In and out, in and out, until you're waking to your morning alarm.