In my head
September 24, 2011 § 1 Comment
The worst part of the insomnia is the memory.
There’s an old saying a teacher (one of the few teachers who ever cared to teach me anything, in fact) told me, a Buddhist saying I think he hoped I would take to heart. “The mind is a mad monkey.” To be completely honest, it is only in times like this where I simply cannot get myself to settle down and sleep that I truly feel that I understand it. But in the personal hell of the sleepless night the mind is more a rat terrier chewing away at some tattered old bone of resentment or shame or fear. Some ragged filament of loss or pain out of the vast stockpile of slights and embarrassments that the mind just will not leave buried.
When your past won’t stay past it becomes gangrenous. It doesn’t even have to be anything important or monumental. At the moment I’m remembering a fight I lost in ninth grade. Before that I was remembering a fight I won in college. Before either of those I was remembering a few hours spent drunk and sick in the incredibly small apartment I moved to when I was twenty. None of this is tremendously important. Hell, it’s not even remotely important. It’s almost meaningless, save for the rat terrier of my brain shaking these memories back and forth, trying to break the neck.
The only neck that feels like it might break is mine. Tension just builds and builds along the bones that trail down from my neck into my back. It’s as if someone was torquing up a spring with no way for me to release the energy. It goes beyond toxic, as I remember sensations and experiences long dead, that tartar that builds up in the brain made up of laughter behind hands and letters where voices should have been used.
I do not know anyone who has ever told me that they have no regrets. I don’t understand how anyone could. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have regrets, but this feeling goes beyond regret. This isn’t the sorrowful musing on opportunities lost and mistakes made, this is the realization that who you have been at one point in your life or another is someone you cannot abide.
I have been that which I loathe. Worse, I have had that moment of clarity where I realized that I was something I could not stand being, that I had done things that were abhorrent to me. I have wept like a child in front of a woman who was leaving me, begging for a second chance. I have shot an arrow into a deer’s chest and cut its throat. I have stolen. I have lied. I have lost faith, and never found a replacement. When my father tried to reach out to me, I could not put my anger aside and forgive him, and I cut ties. We have not spoken in years. We will most likely never speak again.
I was drunk at my mother’s funeral, and for most of the decade that followed, as well as the year that preceded it. I eat far too much. I remember soiling myself when I was being beaten and my face held in a puddle so that I couldn’t get air, screaming, wailing, crying so hard that I inhaled mud. When I got my growth spurt, I found one of the boys behind that experience and I beat him for five minutes, culminating in breaking his arm with a dumpster lid. I have gone looking for beatings and looking to give them. I sat in the bathroom of a dirty shithole of a bar in Blacksburg, VA and just sobbed until I couldn’t feel anything at all.
When you cannot sleep your brain dredges up all your sins and throws them one at a time in your face, showing you the reeking mire of your foolish, foolish petty little crimes and mistakes. The worst part is seeing how small you have been. How petty. How weak and useless you have been, how disgusting your fits of pique. How all the rage you have ever felt is just a desperate attempt to force the fear poisoning you to flow outward for a while. The world may be too much with us, but it is astonishingly painful to realize just how much you tried to push it away and just how often you failed.
Worse yet is to remember all the nights where nothing happened. Nights I hid, sometimes in cheap booze or drugs, as if I could poison myself into clarity. Nights where I did nothing at all. The cowardice of being afraid to even face my own dreams. The banality of it all, the relentless sameness of it, alone just like everyone else. Even my fear and pain laced with affectation and pretension.
The one consolation is this. Once you have faced a few nights like this and gotten through to the other side, nothing anyone else says about you can ever harm you the way it once did. No insult, no cutting remark, nothing can really match up to what the mad monkey can do to you just by throwing what you have been right back into your teeth.