Once or twice a week I wake from a sound sleep, momentarily elated that morning has arrived without the requisite half a dozen trips to the restroom or a major tussle with the dog and cat for my share of legroom. Then I glance at the clock and discover it’s only been an hour or two since I set my book and glasses on the night stand and turned out the light.
Sleep eludes me. I close my eyes. I will my body to be still. I conjure benign, peaceful thoughts. Then it starts. I try to stop it. I know it’s not good for me. Yet it’s seductive. It sucks me in and hooks me, like a sad movie and a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough on a gloomy, gray day.
I compile lists in the hours before dawn. Not to-do lists or grocery lists. Not lists of books I want to read, movies and TV shows I’d like to watch or life goals. I make lists of people who aren’t in my life anymore, all manner of ex’s.
-- Best friends
-- People I liked more than they liked me
-- People who liked me more than I liked them
-- People who snubbed me, dumped me, excised me from their lives
-- People I snubbed, dumped or excised from my life
-- People who did me a kindness that I never repaid
-- People who never acknowledged my kindness
Punctuated by the bong of the grandfather clock on the hour and half hour, I relive past personal history. A parade of characters files across the stage in my head—from childhood, high school, college and the jumbled, sometimes desperate years between marriages. They float behind my closed eyes, acting out old scenes.
Like Scrooge, I need something from each of these night visitors, something that is rarely afforded me, that awful word, closure.
For invariably, there is a sense of unfinished business, of something incomplete about these past relationships. These are stories that are over, yet somehow not done. It may be because I don’t know what ended it or because I do know and don’t rest easy with what that says about the kind of person I am or how little I, or we, mattered.
Once I get going, it’s like the cookie dough, hard to stop until the tube is empty and my stomach sick, hard to stop until it’s daylight and my eyes are sore from lack of sleep.
What is this compulsion? From where does it spring and of what use is it. These people whose lives once intersected mine, in ways big and small, profound and trivial. I conjure their faces, their voices and touch. The things we said and did. Where we were, what I wore and how I did my hair back then. The best friend I spent hours with every day, the one who said that when she was with me she dared to do things she’d never done before. The friend I loved so much, admired so much, I wanted to be her. The college boyfriend who said we inhabited a private universe, with our own secret language, a code only we understood.
Was it something I said? Something I did? Or is it just the nature of human connections that they break apart, sometimes so gradually you scarcely notice it happening until it’s done, other times so hard and fast it’s the whack of a sharp knife.
In the hours before dawn, I remember you. Do you remember me?
Is anybody out there?
"Want an ax to break the ice, I wanna come down right now"
Dorothy, author of GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK, blogs about the challenges and opportunities of being a woman and a writer of a certain age in a youth-centric universe.