Monday, February 23, 2015

Sunday Nights

It's one of those Sunday nights after a weekend that seems to have gone on longer than it should, the sort of night where you should get one final stretch of rest before arriving at work on Monday morning, refreshed and ready to attack that stack of work that's been waiting on your disk since Friday afternoon, when you were so impatient to leave.

Instead, I'm lying awake in bed. It's what... 4:00 a.m.? The mosquitoes are out tonight, and I can't lie still. There are a million ways to try to fall asleep, counting sheep, telling yourself narratives, focusing on the images under your eyes and watching the patterns they weave together. Or the more physical ways-- a shot of Jim Beam, a quick jerk-off, a couple of Xanax.

Lately, I've been trying to read when I'm up in the middle of the night-- light things, things that I've already read before, and things that provide a weird sort of comfort-- Paul Theroux on travel, Anthony Bourdain on food, digestible, beach-ready nonfiction written by professional hardbitten cynics, as if somehow their experiences provide a viable distraction from my myriad professional, romantic, artistic, and personal failures.

But my sleeplessness isn't just a product of the mosquitoes, or the anxiety. We mythologize the Friday night and the Saturday night, the lazy Saturday and the lazy Sunday, and the faithful address their gods at Sunday morning mass or Shabbat dinner. But we neglect our Sunday nights. We don't address the power they can have over us.

Their unique misery does not just come from the dread of the coming Monday morning-- it's the utter melancholy of not having done anything decent with your weekend. When the co-workers ask what you did, what do you say? That all you did was get pissed on Friday night, failed to pick up some girl, spent the rest of the weekend lying about, maybe going to the movies?

-Yeah, went to see Birdman at the Lido, way good, I'll say between gulps of coffee.

Try going out to a nightlife-heavy neighborhood of your city on a Sunday night. The streets are largely empty of cars, restaurants are empty save for a few couples too lazy to cook that night. Pulsing music plays from bars devoid of customers. Who the hell is out?

In a city like Bangkok, there are the tourists, a tubby German couple with matching fanny packs. Braying, sunburnt Brits in neon shorts. Salarymen getting quietly trashed, stumbling in a horde out of some Japanese-only hostess bar. Pairs of Chinese women in sundresses, ordering syrup-sweet cocktails and filling the bar with the loud chatter of Shanghai and Shenzhen.

And everywhere, there are the stragglers. The industry people-- all the line cooks and bartenders and waitstaff whose schedule runs counter to that of the rest of the world. And the serious partiers, all the people desperately trying to keep the spirit of the weekend going, stumbling ahead in nicotine-laced, prematurely hoarse, bleary-eyed groups of four and five.

I walk past them, on my way home, late enough that the streetside restaurants are busy cleaning up and hosing down fish guts and chicken blood into the sewers.

This is the absolute nadir of the week. The distractions of work and social life have been scraped away, and you are left alone and tired, past empty offices, empty bars, metal grates pulled over storefronts, and you see all the joys of city life inverted, a city that is palpably and painfully real.

And so maybe it's no wonder I can't sleep, and I'm sitting here next to my well-thumbed copy of Dark Star Safari, underneath my blanket, watching the shadows the ceiling fan makes against the curtains.

But when I see the first bit of light come out from over Lumphini Park, I know I'm going to be fine, at least for now. The palm trees turn this deep teal color, and the calls of the geckos and night birds are slowly replaced by the sounds of diesel trucks making their early morning deliveries. And it's when the night is finally beaten that I can turn off the lamp.