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Talking head

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Some nights I lie on my back before falling asleep and think about what tomorrow might bring. Other nights I think about how past days have given and taken away. If all goes well, my brain tires of thinking, and I roll over and go to sleep.

Sometimes, though, all does not go well. During the first minutes of darkness, the voice in my head emerges from behind the draperies of the night. It speaks to me in the first, second or third person, depending on what it’s talking about. When it speaks in the second person, it generally is saying something like “Pat, you dumb f**k.” The third person voice doesn’t talk so much as it resurrects memories. It remembers stupid things I've said, foolish things I’ve done, going back as far as memory reaches—and sometimes farther back than I would have thought possible. Despite the passage of years, the memories make me cringe. Too soon old, too late smart, and no way to reconcile the two.

Some nights the voices rush past in disturbing and discordant ways, much like the instrumentation in this song (start at the 3:50 mark) Their clamor is unstoppable, their number uncountable. It feels like being in an automobile stopped at a railroad crossing as a high-speed freight train rumbles past. The boxcars and hoppers and gondolas and flatcars all seem to blur into one, the writing on their sides impossible to read.

The harder I try to suppress the voices, the louder and faster they talk, overwhelming the professionally prescribed pills I take to get a good night's sleep. When I finally fall asleep on these nights, my dreams fly forward at the same speed as the voices. The usual anxiety dreams dominate. The episodes shoot by in a blur. It feels as if I’m sleeping in a hurry. Slumber comes in fitfully, and the alarm clock buzzes so soon that it seems the past night’s sleep was an illusion. If time is a pliable dimension, then I twist it, making it shorter on those nights.

One of my sidebar quotations is from Eric Clapton: “My definition of peace is having no noise in my head.” I know what he means. I wish I could lie down at night and not hear any voices. Not the slower ones, not the quieter ones, not the singular ones, not the rare ones that acknowledge my having done something good. No voices.

I just want to like on my back, hear a blast of silence and get away from everything in the waking world. No noise. No dreams. Peace.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
nodressrehersal
Jun. 28th, 2011 03:05 am (UTC)
I can well imagine how wonderful a peaceful night's sleep must feel to you, after reading your description of the anti-peaceful sleep.

Folsom Prison's got nothin' on your nighttime doings - I hear the train a comin'...

I sincerely hope those nights are the exception and not the rule.
patrick_vecchio
Jun. 28th, 2011 01:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks. You're right: So far, those nights are exceptions.
minnesattva
Jun. 28th, 2011 11:25 am (UTC)
I know those nights. Much sympathy. I wish I could do better, but I don't have a solution to offer.

I'm curious about why Eric Clapton said that. I idolized him as a teenager but he's fallen out of favor with me since so I don't know -- or at least remember -- his backstory any more; can we count him among the ranks of the Mentally Interesting, or was he talking about it in some other context?
patrick_vecchio
Jun. 28th, 2011 01:21 pm (UTC)
I don't know where I found that Clapton quotation or what the context was. It must have been an accident, because like you, I'm not an E.C. fan anymore.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 3rd, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC)
I call it "The Slide Show" -- somebody has a finger on the "advance" button on the projector, and the pictures in my head fly by, one after another after another, just like your boxcars: fleeting images that are gone as soon as they come into focus. Quite maddening.
patrick_vecchio
Jul. 4th, 2011 12:30 am (UTC)
Slide Show from Hell is more like it, eh?
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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