Andrei Codrescu, Insomniac

There it was, by God, the thought that everything was wrong. It was wrong, it was broken. It was way past being fixed. It could have been, at one time, but I’d let it go. I’d created it, innocently enough, it is true, but I had let it go on and on, and now it was too late. It was too late for it, for me, for everyone involved, it was just damn, plain late. I looked at the bedside clock, a loud, luminous, gassy assertion of numbers: 1:30 a.m. It would get later still. I knew that between the first time I looked at it and the second time the numbers would have grown brighter, louder, more awake, and it would be later still. Two. Two-ten. Two-forty. Three. Three-three. My favorite digital moment in the unending sweat of logic that wouldn’t break down. Three-three, the portal to the Hour of the Wolf: 4 a.m., the Hour of the Wolf, the insomniac’s fork in the road.

Here, he must choose whether to go on trying to break down the thin but resilient film of argumentation with his self, or whether he ought to rise and join the world of the semiliving. It’s not a bad time in the real world. Some bartenders, waiters, drunks, and college students are just heading home. Street sweepers are getting their machines warm. Newsboys are hurling the world on your doorstep. The edge of day is nearly over the Atlantic. Best of all, the overworried its of the night have retreated to the backwater of the mind, temporarily beaten by their own weary circularity, and by the texture of real things. Coffeemaker. Colin Powell. Toilet paper. New novel. All Things Considered commentary. Even the numinous and anguished clock has shrunk. Still, tiredness lines every gesture like lead. My lost sleep is being slept by someone somewhere, someone innocent and at peace, someone whose thoughts aren’t broken by insoluble sorrow, someone young and untroubled who acts before thinking and sleeps when he closes his eyes. Alas. That someone was me once, and that’s why, doubtless, we are in trouble now.

From the book The Dog With the Chip in His Neck: Essays from NPR and Elsewhere. Copyright © 1996 by Andrei Codrescu. Reprinted by arrangement with St. Martin’s Press, Inc.

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