I couldn’t sleep last night.
Of course, I did. Eventually.
While my thoughts paced in the blackness behind my eyelids, they passed over my childhood. (How lovely — to think of incidents from decades ago instead of drifting off.) When I was a boy and I couldn’t sleep, it was only ever caused by one of two reasons: either the excitement about Santa’s visit in the night, or open doors. Open doors were not literal —in fact, I preferred my bedroom door ajar to allow the light of the hall to spill in— no, open doors were in my mind. I crafted the analogy at eight years old and I find it still holds merit.
Imagine a room. Eight by eight. There is an aseptic white light coming from nowhere and you’re reminded of an office building between leases. The room is empty, except for you standing in the middle of it. And a door, just across. Right now, the door is closed. In your hands, you hold small pieces of paper, folded once in half. Looking at them, you see written in black ink the weighty matters that make up your thoughts. Ambitions — fears, maybe. Loves. Or anxieties. Maybe a name is written on one piece and a task is written on another, while the third is a memory of that interaction you had this morning. Nothing too troublesome… but there’s a humming. A humming or a buzzing. It’s coming from the door (while, behind the door, you reckon). And you step towards it. Slowly. You let go of the paper in your hands as you reach for the door-handle. They don’t fall to the ground, though; they float, flutter around your head. And it’s curious but there’s still the humming, louder now, coming from behind the door. The heavy door that you pull with both hands until it opens. When it does, the scene revealed is as if out of Harry Potter — thousands of folded pieces of paper fly in a great mirky expanse like locusts. They zip past you in chaotic patterns, they burrow into creases in the chamber walls, they go to the darkness at the back, then return with force. They bombard you and the clean white room you maintain, until your room and the great one become equally occupied and you’re left crouching behind the door, leaning against it with all that you have. Until all you can do—while swatting at the buzzing slips around your head— is to try and close it.
Once, when I was little, I was so overwhelmed that I started crying. I got out of bed, walked across the hardwood floor of the house, whimpering. I called to my sleeping mother from the doorway of my parent’s bedroom. She came to me, took my hand and guided me to a chair in the upstairs office. She put me on her lap and asked me to explain what was wrong. I told her about the room, the flying cards, and the open door. She wanted to know specifically what it was that was bothering me. I can’t imagine any single topic was more stressful than Math Test on Thursday. I can’t even remember what the others would be, but it doesn’t matter what subjects were on my mind — only that I was being swarmed by the mechanisms of daily life; only that there was too much to be considered in the first place. I wish I could remember what she said. Whatever it was, it got that restless boy to go to sleep and carry on the next day without concern. I wonder if it was even the advice, or just the warm hand rubbing counter-clockwise circles on my back that closed the door. What is it that quiets a consciousness — logic or love? The stoics would say it’s the former but I’d contend that it’s the warmth.
Last night was cold. Last night, I had an open door. The flying tickets were marked with different titles than they used to have, but the rest was the same; there was still too many of them.
B.F. Greeno, aka
Mind racing, ever racing