3. Middle-of-Night, Setting the Scene

by Marisa Siegel

I have never been able to sleep through the night. It’s all exactly what you would expect.

What sort of child doesn’t worry about the wide expansive darkness of human existence? I worried a lot about fire for a year. Other years, robbers being kidnapped serial killers ghosts etc. My ability to project onto outside forces developed early and over-night.

My bedroom first had wallpaper with clowns and balloons. I was a celebration, and there was lots of red. When I was twelve and starting to understand my bedroom as fortress we had the walls painted white and put in a teal carpet. I can feel laying on that carpet – crying, or not alone and taking that in, or writing or singing and dancing or reading.

I didn’t/I don’t sleep alone well, although I also don’t like to share my bed with almost everyone. What you might do to wake me up keep me up infuriate me, from least to most offensive: twitch, steal the blanket or pile the blanket on me, cough, sneeze, get up to have a drink of water, touch me without invitation, snore. I’m not pretty in the middle of the night but I’m fierce.

The middle of the night does not ask for much explanation. But I do, I want to understand why I’m either awake or might as well be. Why I hate sleeping on my back. Why I didn’t know it was the last night she’d be there. Why I’m in a car and I’m shaking. Why I did or did not. Why is a big deal in the middle of the night.

Once I moved out of the dorm, I’d stay up late watching movies with Bear in that big red dish chair. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, True Romance. Kill Bill 2. Once I moved in with E., I mostly stopped staying up late. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report. Fitful bouts of sleep, late-night classes that sent me straight to bed or sneaking out to the living room couch, that terrible uncomfortable ugly and finally gone couch, and watch TV.

And that year by the ocean. The smell of the air on a humid July night or when snow mixes with sand. The waves continue throughout the night. Creating playlists of Simpsons episodes to lull me into a sleep-like stupor, a quieting or comforting of mind. And a phone rang or maybe I was already reaching for it. It was all breeze that year, the middle of the night. A ferocious breeze.

I’m going to call midnight to 4:30 AM as middle-of-night. When most people are sleeping.