I’d like to start this by establishing the fact that I am not someone who cherishes and pines for those 3 am conversations that are so often portrayed as something magical and life changing in poetry, and love letters, and whatnot. I have learnt not to. I have come to realize that there is nothing special about relationships based on confessions made in moments of weakness and secrecy, in moments which can easily be pushed to the back of your memory- in moments that you can pretend never happened because you were the only ones who were there. I think it is better to say “Hey, come here, I love you” when you’re with them in the kitchen one afternoon, trying to make a lunch that is bound to be a failure; I also think it is better to say, “You know what? This is incredibly sad but I think that you might actually be my best friend” when you’re walking them home after a fairly ordinary day out. I think special things are better said at ordinary times, rather than through long calculated text messages in the middle of the night when you’re both waiting with bated breath for a grand gesture because otherwise, what is the point of saying, “we stayed up all night talking”? I think it is better to say things you wouldn’t be afraid to say on an ordinary day rather than whispering across the room in the middle of the night, hoping to god that they can’t see your face in the dark.
I think it’s better when we say things without the urgency of the approaching dawn forcing us to do something, anything- in a desperate attempt to make tomorrow better, or even just a little bit different.
As a generation which attaches so much meaning to anything said after the clock hits midnight, we have the collective tendency to throw the word Insomnia around at an alarming rate. We stuff it in the bottom of our bags with pages full of incomplete poems and half drawn faces, we rub it into the dark circles under our eyes, we save it on our phones along with meaningless conversations with people we no longer seem to remember, we bookmark it with the pages of the three books we are simultaneously reading because we can’t commit to one, we ignore it like the friend we can’t “connect” with anymore, and we gulp it down with another caffeine fix that makes our hands tremble for the next two hours. We accept it as our plight like we do so many other things, and like so many other things, we refuse to work our way around it.
Being unable to sleep, physically or mentally, feels more exhausting than it sounds. At times like these you realize how much effort you need to put in to just relax- and how terrifying that sounds. Insomnia is like an endless struggle of telling yourself to stop thinking- it is like dragging a drunk man from a party when he refuses to go with , it is like trying to turn off an alarm that won’t stop ringing. Insomnia makes you fidget and itch and toss and turn and pain and scratch- and think. It makes you think like that stubborn child who does exactly what he is told not to do as soon as someone suggests the possibility of something forbidden, it makes you think like thinking is the only way out- it makes you think of dreams and plans- routines, so many routines that will help you go to bed on time tomorrow night, it makes you think of all the things you could’ve done- slept earlier, skipped that last cup of coffee, apologized to your friend after that fight. It makes you look at the clock, a lot. But then you realize it’s dark and so it makes you look at your phone, at your messages, your emails, your pictures, a song, a movie- anything… to keep you from yourself.
The worst kind of insomnia makes you turn on your lights and sit up. The worst kind of insomnia raises the volume of people breathing in the next room, the sound of the clock ticking, the fan moving, the car driving past your window- raises it higher than any song you could be listening to at this hour. And the loudest is the sound of your thoughts. Sometimes you can hear yourself reading, you can see yourself looking. If the lights off insomnia is like the four walls of your room closing in on you and your thoughts running faster than you can catch up with them, and the insomnia in the moonlit balcony is like walking in an abandoned city, then the lights on insomnia is like sitting in a moonlit balcony inside your head, except that that’s the only place you can be- and the only place you can be shrinks into one sharp edged room and you’re suddenly aware of how dark everything looks under the bright artificial light.
Insomnia heightens your every sense, magnifies every detail, saturates every color until your dreams feel bigger than they ever did and the three hours until daylight seem longer than the twelve hours of any day. Because for these three hours, the world is on pause. Every minute you squeeze out is a minute more to you, alone. With red eyes and stale mouth you can live without anyone watching, you can listen to every sound you have regretted not hearing, you can go back in time and relive the memories you are ashamed of in the daylight, you can dream about things you know will never happen. Only at 3 am do you really have the time to look at the clock. Only at 3 am can you can hear yourself thinking over the sounds of everyone judging and evaluating your thoughts. And only insomnia lets you talk to yourself at 3 am, when you don’t have anything special to say.