Monday, August 24, 2015

Violence After Midnight

The two of us are lying in bed. Ms. S. wakes up, and hears me mumbling.

-She won't expect a thing, I whisper.

Still lying down, I slowly reach my hand across. My fingers run across over her face, and then I jump up, and press my hands down, covering her mouth and nose. She struggles for a moment, and then throws me off.


As she tells me this in the morning, I don't know what to think. Did this really happen? How could it have?

My memories of the night had been staying in, watching a movie, cooking dinner, splitting a bottle of wine, going to bed fairly early, and getting a good night's sleep. Dreamless, even.

I'd of course heard countless stories about people doing all sorts of things while sleepwalking. And yet I'd never had any experience of it. Roommates, girlfriends... none of them have ever said I'd done similar things. I've always been a fairly light sleeper, and I toss and turn somewhat, but never anything even remotely close to this act.

To even call it an “act” has the horrifying implication that it had a motive, that it had intention. I know I can't blame myself for what I've done in my sleep. But it's still difficult to admit that I'd been violent in my sleep, especially as someone who doesn't really have violent tendencies. And I know that if I do admit it, while I won't become a pariah, I'll become vaguely suspect in some way. It is tantamount to making visible the albatross around my neck.

And regardless of any question of motivation, it makes the last few moments before falling asleep a bit more tense, a bit more nervous.

The fear of sleep is something pretty innate, and it's few people who haven't experienced it to some degree. Because when you are lying there in the darkness, you are prone, and whether the fear is that of monsters under the bed when you're five years old or is that of the killers and rapists outside when you're 35 years old, we fear what crawls around in the dark.

But what's also frightening is the fear not of your defenselessness when you're sleeping, but of you could do when sleeping. The sleepwalker is an active participant in our world, but their motives are firmly embedded in the hazy logic of the dreaming world. Abiding by the logic of some hidden place within consciousness, the somnambulist lives on both sides of that line, and is rendered blameless because-- like amnesiacs or the insane-- he or she has become separated from common human reality.

So whatever parasitic force within me took over that night, I hope, that by putting it out in the open instead of burying it in shame and denial, I can confront it as such. In calling it what it is, the albatross can fall off and into the sea.