A good night, by the way, if I recall correctly (it’s been quite a long time) is one during which sleep stalks me. These nights, inevitably, I stalk it.
I go from bed to chair to couch to bowl and back to bed, round and round and round again, and am just as likely to see the sun come up from one of those stops on the circuit as another. Especially bad nights become out-of-body experiences, with the floating other me looking down on the shell it has left behind, struggling to be comfortable even in a sitting position. Odd to say, my non-corporeal other self has a voice too, and speaks to me (this is how I recognize it) in italics.
Oh oh. I see what’s happening here. Man, you’ve gone and done it now, wide-eyed in front of the flat screen set. You’ve overdosed on documentaries, haven’t you? Jeeze, you dope. That is the insomniac’s equivalent of the glutton’s Big Feed, and now you have mental indigestion, as it were. Who knows how long it may be before you crap out whatever you’ve taken in. How many of these things have you watched?
I said, how many documentaries have you watched? Let’s crunch some numbers. I’m trying to figure out how serious the problem is. Hello? How many documentaries have you watched?
Um. Not that many, I don’t think.
Well. Let’s see. There was the four-part one about the Greeks. That was pretty good. Did you know…
Four parts? A part was an hour?
Yeah. You know. More or less. A television hour doesn’t necessarily….
Fine, fine. I’ll give you a break. I’ll put it down as three hours. Yeah, and what else…
What else…what else. A couple, three hours on the Medici family in Renaissance Florence. Man, what a…
Again, I’ll cut you some slack, put it down for two hours. Keep going.
Oh, wait, yeah: Six hours on was there really a Trojan War or did Homer…
Six hours? Six hours on was there really a Trojan War. Jeeze. Is that it now?
No. There was some Ken Burns, of course — but just, like, y’now, bonbon size Ken Burns, not one of his epic…
An hour on Huey Long. A really good hour on the guy made the very first motorcar trip across the country, had a bulldog named Bud who wore goggles. Nineteen-Three, think it was. There were just cow paths and village lanes and…
That it for Ken Burns?
I think maybe. No…no. An hour on the coming of radio. Marconi, DeForest, Armstrong, David Sarnoff. Boy, did Armstrong get a raw…
I don’t think I have ever floated out of bigger schmuck than you are, you know? Lemme run this up, just for now. Maybe it’s a total, maybe it’s not. Believe we’re at thirteen hours, with the discounts I’m giving you. That it, I hope?
Well…no. There was a long series on the development of the British monarchy, from the fall of the Roman Empire to, oh, couple centuries after the Norman Conquest.
By long you mean?
It was fascinating. Alfred the Great of Winchester was kinda…
Please tell me you’re done.
Biography of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Just an hour. The Sword of Constantine, a brilliant but terrible, sad and sobering account…
All right, come on, let’s finish this up.
Petra: Lost City of the Nabataens. The Gospel of Judas. Mysteries of King Tut. The Shakers. Islam. The Amish….
Holy crap. I’m not even going to ask, I’ll just account those as an hour each, what the hell difference does it make anymore anyway? And you can stop. I don’t give a shit if there are any more. As it is, you are up to….I’m pretty sure…twenty eight hours. Twenty eight hours. This has been in what period of time?
I don’t know. Three nights, four maybe.
Okay, give you the benefit again, four nights. 96 hours in four days, right? Now, you did sleep some, whatever you may think. Let’s say, and I’m low-balling this too, to be kind to you, three hours a night, in fits and starts. It was probably more than that, but what the hell. 96 less 3 times 4 is 84. You took some meal breaks, did some shopping, took care of business, though not as much as you should have. Spent considerable time where you are now, on the couch, only with the TV off and your eyes closed, tracing rectangles on your forehead with your right fingertip. Beats me, man, I haven’t been running a stopwatch on you. Let’s knock off, say, what the hell, 20 hours, nah, make it 24 — that’s six hours a day, gotta be more than fair — for this all-else category. So now we’re down to, um, 84 less 24, give or take, 60 waking hours…of which 60 waking hours, you’ve spent 28, about half, in other words — half! — taking in genuine experts, bogus experts, actors, announcers with sonorous voices reading bullshit aloud as reverentially as it were the Bible…being subjected to computer graphics, recreations, slo-mo pans of still photographs, filmed dioramas…endless unnecessary questions asked only to introduce the next chapter: But would Moses be able to enter the Promised Land he was about to see? Was it a chariot accident that killed King Tut, or was it…murder?
Four hours on the Jews.
You are screwed, pal. Totally screwed. It’s going to take…hey…you listening? Look at this: Asshole’s asleep, on the couch, elbows on knees and head in hands. My lord, the bodies I have to float out of sometimes.
Not asleep. Did you know that Sophocles was butt-ugly, with pop eyes and a huge nose, and walked around Athens in a filthy robe, trying to engage anyone he met in some kind of philosophical wrangle.
Tell you what. I ain’t getting back in your body. Not right now.
Michelangelo worked day and night, and took his boots off so seldom that, when he did, patches of skin came off his feet with them.
I may be disembodied, but I’m going out. To Starbucks, maybe. They been open an hour already.
The early church fathers banished the Gospel of Judas because the version told in that account shakes the very foundations…
And he’s surprised — surprised! — he can’t sleep, stretched out on a bed of knowledge-bits, information, misinformation, disinformation. He’s bony, he says. Bone-headed, more like. Good luck, putz.
Homer COULD have recited from memory for all those hours upon hours. In parts of Ireland to this day, Amish Conquistadors still…yeah, wait, there was something about the Inca Empire. Inka dinka doo kadinka dee. Prolly ought to be reading something, huh? Here’s a volume, Narc, featuring Sleepy Jack Sazerac, the narcoleptic private eye introduced in the best-selling Put Down That. I gotta be making this up now. Making it up or…dreaming it? Am I asleep? Sure, could be. Maybe Cancerland is nothing but a dream too, all in my head. NO! Not in my head. People get it in their heads. Two more hours. Tumor ours. Arrgh. Someone drag me behind a bus, would ya please.
Hey, I’m…O Lord, you’re till there, on the couch. I tried and tried and tried to get a grande cappuccino but clearly they can’t hear a disembodied italic voice. For me, it’s no good without you, for you it’s no good without me. I’m getting back in, straighten up. C’mon. Let’s lie down.
Let us go then, you and I…
O shut up.