11 June 2009

Grasping At The Panic Switch

Sleep, a precious commodity. Oh, the worth!

Time, it’s never worth my time
Blue shine, Bleeds into my eyes
I still, sleep on the right side
Of the white noise
Can't leave the scene behind

A feeling that never seems to go away. Laying there in the not-dark, the bleed of the street lights oozing through the blinds. They shut, but not really all the way. It is deceiving, because when the bedside light goes out, it seems dark. But that’s only because the eyes haven’t adjusted yet. That first few minutes, the eyes shut in anticipation of sleep, and then there is that glow…that and the noise, in the head. You see, it is leaving that “scene” behind that is truly a herculean task. The clatter and rush of the day, too many phone calls, a hurried lunch and a blizzard in summer. A blizzard? Sort of. The cloud of sticky notes swirls about in the wake of your frantic passage, always in transit, from one end of the ship to the other as it were. It is a turbulent cloud of paper, the notes become flakes. Running doesn’t seem to do any good. Why would it? Can you really outrun a blizzard?

When you see yourself in a crowded room
Do your fingers itch, are you pistol-whipped?
And will you step in line or release the glitch?
And can you fall asleep with a panic switch?

Falling asleep seems like a dream come true. That end of the day, run-down, ass-end of nowhere feeling and sleep seems like an inevitability. The nodding off melding into a slack-jawed stare at the screen, or drooling onto a sheaf of papers that in another life would seem to have some importance. Or so you tell yourself as you concentrate so hard on sitting up and at least looking like you are doing something that at least has the appearance of constructive work.

But…sleep…the goddess beckons from across the stream, and you want desperately to cross it.

So it’s out the door when the bell rings and “Free, I’m free!” Home and couch beckon, a shimmering vision of the Promised Land, with only a small desert to cross, that vast sterile sea of asphalt and rolling metal under a pall of exhaust. And that is when the tension ratchets up.

You find yourself in that crowded room, surrounded, trapped in danger of being crushed by all the others caught in the behavioral sink called the streets that are supposed to take you home. Gigantic rat mazes, where you can’t even smell the goddamn cheese, much less have any hope of finding it. So now you are wide awake and taut like a guitar string. The panic switch is mere centimeters from your fingertips. Your hand trembles as you strain to touch it.

And when you see yourself in a crowded room
Do your fingers itch, are you pistol-whipped?
Will you step in line or release the glitch?
Do you think she'll sleep with the panic...

The fingers: they do itch. They itch from the friction of gripping the wheel so tight it hurts. Frustration mounting and wondering why it seems like a curse. Everywhere you go the universe seems to be in mild conspiracy, keeping you from getting where you want, to get what you want, when you need it. A million expletives boil in the open-hearth furnace of your mind, finding release in the form of F-bombs pouring down like a violent summer cloudburst. And nothing much seems to change. Remain calm, panic, scream at the top of your lungs, it’s all the same: still trapped, just outside that circle of light, fingers trembling…it is to weep, almost, the desire to run, to scream, to pleasepleasepleasegethomesafedrytosleepperchancetodream…Pistol whipped by a life that could once, just once, be unfair in your favor…

Mm, I'll try
To hold on tight tonight
Pink slip
Inviting me inside
Wanna burn skin
And brand what once was mine
But the red views
Keep ripping the divide

So it is that getting out, getting away, getting home becomes a wellspring of bad feeling and negative thought. Relax? Ha. It is to laugh. The distraction of chores undone, bills, the shedding of the detritus of modern life: they bring the fire roaring back to life. That sleepy feeling, the blacking out almost at the desk?

Gone. Like smoke before the hurricane.

Sure, the body feels tired, but that is just a gentle joke. A tease. A minor cruelty in the name of Cosmic Humor. Surely you get it? Near unconscious when your faculties are needed, but wired awake when you court the goddess of sleep? Funny, no?

So you lie awake, there in the half-light, trying not to breathe too loud, or listen to the faint rasp of your own breath. The rustle of the sheets when you twitch, like a cat in a fever dream of mice. The hum and click of the air conditioning like mechanical crickets crooning outside the window. You swallow and sigh, groping desperately for that panic switch, frantic to shut it off. Maybe, if you are lucky, you’ll get your fingertips on it. Greasy feeling and with fading warmth, like the last heat from a cooling body in the morgue.

You grope and writhe, pulling hard on that switch, praying to God or something like him that you’ll have the strength to flip it to the off position.

It’s a matter of survival.

I'm waiting and fading and floating away
I'm waiting and fading and floating away
I'm waiting and fading and floating away
Waiting and fading and floating…

Italicized passages are lyrics to “Panic Switch”, by Silversun Pickups, off the album Swoon.


  1. I do know this sleepless feeling you write of, intimately. Come to hawaii, my friend. the grasp on my schedule and my time and my to DO DO DO list has slipped through my clenched fingers and melted into the sand along with my cares and worries...even if only for a few weeks, it is glorious. i wake with the sun and am in bed by 930 and find it inconceiveable that a week ago I was an incurable insomniac workaholic.

  2. YOU hit ME with this rythm stick you souped up cool dude! A lovely bit of writing ...

    Life's like that - upside down and inside out much of the time - and it's our task to mould it into a shape that suits us. Good luck with that.

    Me, sleep comes when I breathe deep and slow, concentrating on that only. And almost invariably I float off into a comfy haze, nice and easy.

  3. Not sleeping this week here, either.
    Stellar writing once again, Gumby.

  4. Great writing, Irish!

    Lately, I think I'm getting a lot of sleep but I wake up so very tired.

    Too much on my mind, I suppose.

  5. I don't know why but this made me think of the time I got stuck in an elevator and used the emergency phone only to get a recording.

    I "Die Harded" my way out of that one.

  6. Effin WOWZA!

    Yup ... that covers it!

  7. Wow....MO ZACTLY!!!!

  8. I love sleep. And sometimes I just don't get enough of it.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...