Lethe-wards

Or not.

What is insomnia? Insomnia is boring. Boring to hear about and even more boring to experience. Insomnia is googling “where is joss stone now” at 3 a.m. (doing cooking videos on Instagram, is where, crooning softly to the camera aren’t these delicious as she fingers a tray of vegan peanut butter brownies) and achy teeth, and the desire, the following day, to consume more fistfuls of sugary fruit than a fully grown bonobo. Insomnia is fielding well meaning but ludicrous suggestions about lavender sachets and essential oils and surely it wouldn't hurt to give them a try, and it’s ordering poorly formatted ebooks from gurus who claim to have cracked a secret code hitherto overlooked by the entire medical establishment, mine for only twelve dollars ninety-nine plus postage. Insomnia is forking out for a memory foam mattress which promises to change my life but is essentially still just a pad for lying on. Insomnia is slavish adherence to a finely tuned routine (three loops of the wide roads – that’s what I like to call the wide roads near the flat, “the wide roads” – three loops of those with an Adam Buxton podcast and then home to yoga and a once-over with the deep tissue massager thing –  it’s good but not two-hundred-quid good – and ten minutes of the meditation app with the nasal corporate monk and then, finally, to bed), without which I have roughly the same chance of getting to sleep as I did of being born in the first place – i.e., one-in-four-trillion. Insomnia is still being awake at 4 a.m., brain buzzing with brittle, unpleasant thoughts about how every single one of my ancestors (and yours) had to have survived long enough to reach sexual maturity – whatever sexual maturity means to a single-cell organism slurping about in the viscous primordial soup that passed for life thirteen billion years ago – and that, moreover, every single pairing of those ancestors had to have occurred in exactly the manner it did, and at precisely the second it did, in order for me to be here at all. Like: if my great-times-a-thousand-grandparents hadn’t locked eyes one night across the newly invented campfire (so nifty! so warming!), and if my great-times-a-thousand-grandfather hadn’t offered my great-times-a-thousand-grandmother a strip of delicately charred rodent flesh, and if she hadn’t coyly accepted and made a show of ripping into it with her well developed incisors, and if the two of them hadn’t shortly thereafter mated on the floor of her cave before my great-times-a-thousand-grandfather departed the next morning with his spear to replenish the rodent stocks only to be pounced upon and summarily devoured by the local sabre-toothed lion – well, if none of that had happened, then I would never have had to endure this wretched, miserable little existence in the first place! And would not now be faced with the prospect of getting out of bed in two hours’ time and crawling, hollow-cheeked and sallow-skinned, to my job! COULD YOU NOT HAVE DONE ME THE SIMPLE COURTESY OF EATING GREAT-TIMES-A-THOUSAND-GRANDFATHER BEFORE HE SPOTTED GREAT-TIMES-A-THOUSAND-GRANDMOTHER LOOKING TANTALISINGLY FECUND IN HER DRESS OF WOOLLY MAMMOTH FUR AND WHATEVER SHE’D DONE TO HER HAIR WITH THOSE ARTFULLY ARRANGED TWIGS, SABRE-TOOTHED LION?, I rage, into the indifferent darkness. Insomnia is the grey light of 5 a.m. as the birds start up with their hateful chirruping and every stupid decision I’ve ever made – from quitting my PhD to passing up the opportunity in the years 1993-97 to amass the kind of toy collection (Sylvanian Families, Trolls, Beanie Babies) that would surely, in today’s market, be priceless beyond measure – parades itself before the gritty, dried-out husks that are my eyeballs. Insomnia, to paraphrase Shakespeare – O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature's soft nurse, how have I frightened thee, That thou no more will weigh my eyelids down, And steep my senses in forgetfulness? (Henry IV, Part 2) – is The Literal Worst.

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