Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rebel Yell

One of my kids woke me up this morning because 'something in the closet was freaky.' I couldn't go back to sleep, so I thought I'd tune in to 93.9 The River and write a song of the day post. 5:16 a.m.: "Eyes Without A Face" by Billy Idol. 

My childhood nights were haunted. Each shift in light was an apparition, every noise worth pondering. I slept so lightly that a speck in the atmosphere would wake me, or so I thought. In truth, it didn't always wake me completely.

John Henry Fuseli - The Nightmare

My parents first reported somnambulistic activity when I was young. They claimed I came down the stairs shortly after bedtime. I walked past them, ignored their questions, and went into the bathroom. They could hear water running in the tub. They knocked; they pressed; I said I was getting ready for school. They told me it was still night. They waited. I didn't come out, so they opened the door. They found me wearing my mother's shirt inside-out. Somehow, someone convinced me to put on my nightgown and go back to bed. My only memory of this is that my parents told me the story the next morning. I questioned their integrity. Dad's quite a practical joker. Was this just a new way to tease me?

The most infamous sleep-related incident took place after my fifth semester of college. I was broke, and selfish, and Mom and Dad didn't raise any objections that I could hear or remember. I moved back home to live rent- and utility- and grocery-bill free, working at Red Lobster and saving for classes in the fall.

Before college, my sister and I shared a room for 12 years. My departure rang the bell of opportunity for her to have her own space. Her stuff had exploded like a shook soda bottle; thus, I did not have a bed.

My dad worked second shift and stayed awake until 1 or 2 in the morning, so crashing on the couch was out. The solution? A ratty chair-cot contraption thrown onto the floor, in the only spot that made sense: the narrow hallway connecting my parent's room to the stairwell.

One night before falling asleep, my mind began to wander. I thought about when I was an RA in college, how my room sat right next to the elevators, how I was the first line of defense for my floor. Back then, this resposibility kept me awake. Now I was the first line of defense in my parents' home. What would I do, I wondered, if I heard an intruder break into my house? I would wake up, no doubt. I pictured it my mind. My breathing would grow rapid, and I would strain to hear any sound. Was I dreaming, I would wonder? My answer would come in the form of a creak on the wooden stairs. My eyes would open. My pulse racing, turning toward the noise, I would see his hair through the railing, then his forehead. Another step, and the intruder would have that sense that someone was watching him. He would glance toward the hall and our eyes would lock. What would I do? I would want to scream, but could I?

In a moment of clarity I realized that if I saw him, he couldn't let me live. I resolved that instead of opening my eyes willy-nilly, I would choose to be still and quiet, creating an illusion of rest. I practiced; I fell asleep.

The next morning, my dad seemed delighted. He started asking me about my dreams, if I had anything unusual to share from the night.

No, I said, no.

Are you sure? he pressed, grinning.

I paused. He kept grinning.

What? I said. What?

In the middle of the night, he had left his bed to use the bathroom. He turned on the light to avoid tripping over me. This catapulted me from the floor. I yelled, who's there? He called out to me, called me by name, tried to quiet me, but I kept screaming, and not just screams of terror. I was showing off my college vocabulary. Cuss words. We're not talking the small ones; I brought out the big guns. I was cussing out my own father in my sleep.

Allegedly. I, of course, remember nothing.

For more song of the day musings:
unnatural-ism (Stevie Wonder's "A Time for Love/Bridge Over Troubled Water")

You may also enjoy my picks for the most self-centered songs of all time.

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