I have a story for all kinds of weird sleep-related shenanigans. Walking, talking, singing, dancing, fucking, wanking.
One of my earliest memories is of sleep misadventures. Waking in my parents’ bathroom, freezing cold, alone in the blue predawn hue. The long narrow room, icily humid like all 90s Irish lavatories, except filled with a fear I didn’t yet know. No Video Nasty I had seen inappropriately young felt like this. This was real. I was afraid to call for help, early onset male ego: it’s ok to die, just don’t be caught whinging about it.
Some of said issues have been worse than others.
Take sleep paralysis. Stephen Hawkinged to the bed, seeing everything in black and white, entombed in my mind, while in the corner of the ceiling the witch in grey is glued like spiderman, supersonic wailing at me, the dimensions of the wall palpitating somehow bringing her closer to me with every pulse.
As frightening as that was, I don’t count it as full on binge-induced sleep paralysis because it only felt like a twenty minute experience. Everyone else says it feels like hours. Maybe they’re just pussies. Maybe the taste of madness that psychosis gives us chosen ones hardens us up to comparatively mundane horrors of everyday life.
I’ve seen videos of after parties where my legs are more alive to the beat, passed out on the couch, than they ever were in the club earlier in the night before finding their way to this den of street urchins. Oddly, I could gum a 50 bag of Mandy or unwrap 25 dollars of sneachta from a folded single to the back of my skull with ferocious snorting, and sleep like it was a benzo treated suicide Tuesday.
This particular story all started with atypical innocence. Laying down to sleep in San Francisco with Evelin, the lady I shared some nights with during that period of my life.
As off the rails as my drinking had been – and rails being fitting as the joy of blow will knock the fear of drink dependence out of your mind as long as the ocht liathróid will roll, it being a barometer of a weekend’s deviance – I had responsible adulting nailed down that night. It was a rare night of sobriety. I know this because I remember burritoing myself up in the lightly chilled duvet, or comforter, when in Rome. You know the kind where the fabric is so cold it feels slightly damp. I panic set my alarms with one eye open, hanging off the bed, and then rapid fire flipped the pillow to the frosted side, to join my face with it in a deep passionate embrace.
Then I was blinking myself awake. On the toilet. At the end of a shite I didn’t even realise I was having. Boxers around my ankles, pondering whose toilet am I in again? as I wiped. I stood up and pulled my boxers up in one motion – I’m a busy 21st century man – splashed hands with water in the way us men commit to the bare minimum of hygiene when and where we can get away with it. I stepped out into the hall, sleep falling out of my eyes, where an angry man, speaking American in an angrier Arabic twang demanded:
’Who the fuck are you? What the fuck are you doing in my house??’
‘Relax”, I said, speeding out the door of what I assume was his home, ‘I was just taking a shit.’
On the street I thought, I don’t know that man, where I am, or what I’m doing on the street in my boxers. A much deeper cool washed over me, with no pleasantry of the pillow, and I started to run. Internally crying, fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. I run as fast as my drug induced malnourished legs will take me. I jump over broken glass, I dodge a traffic cone used as near always for construction site safety purposes, me the real hazzard, I use a tree to steady my panicked pacing speed wobbles. I run like Forest Gump, only signs could stop me:
CROSS STREET. Quickly calculate where I am.
I slept in Evelin’s ‘til now! Where does she live again? But where is her house? Oh. The opposite direction.
The mission district was, and maybe still is, one of the greater parts of San Francisco. Historically it was a Latina district. I say Latina as I favour Latina porn. I do not like Latino porn, if he’s not fat enough to be a Mexican wrestler, he’s so ludicrously over-chiselled to be an MMA, but not ultimate fighter. On the day labour sites, us Micks used to affectionately joke
‘What’s the difference between a Mexican American, and a gay American? About 4 corona and lime’ . To which my favoured brothers in back breaking labour would reply
‘How many potatoes does it take to kill a Paddy? None.’
And if not too low on brain cells from the previous night, we’d chase back:
‘ANDELE ANDELE ARRIBA’
My reason for staying there (other than the party reputation of the place) was that I didn’t want to spend too much time with my ancestral brethren. It would take from the traveling experience: prevent the expansion of my mind, the myriad cultural influences, the chance of having sex with women that weren’t Irish. Within a fortnight I was on a middle name basis with all the bog folk in the region who’d escaped the fields.
I kept running. The tree looks and lunges for me more menacingly, the traffic cone is judgmental this time, the broken glass wants to kill me, the mirrored tracks of classic arcade racers were always more sinister.
Back past angry troll’s dwelling, I ran, flop-sweating like I had been bingeing hard– something I suddenly and seriously felt I needed. The harbinger pre-dawn fiasco started earlier this time than at 5 years of age. It was the depth of night, black, yet. Fewer homeless people frequented this street, which I found strange, as its darkness and quiet would make a better place to rest your hat, if they were fortunate enough to own one. The residential street was poorly lit compared to the main street and its tributaries, streets of odd industries, bars, churches, dollar stores, 24 hour pie, blended into a shake. Or those hotdog stands that appear out of nowhere, and the between-the-lines dealers that pop up at the perfect times, both like other realm folklore magical traders.
Evelin’s place was one of those three story bay windowed houses repurposed into naff flats. They seemed so charming at first. Maybe my labouring jobs in the swankier homes spoiled them, where afterwards I went home to shit in one wardrobe and wash my hands in another.
When I got to her house there was a long thin streak of excrement running down the low wall before the gate. Not uncommon in cities with large numbers of intravenous drug users, or a crack epidemic as the case was in San Francisco, but I would put my life on it being mine.
I was a shit altogether. I was a junkie, but the kind living in a house with a bed and clean dishes, and my drugs went up my nose and down my trap or sometimes absorbed through the soft defenceless skin of my cavities.
Thank the lord, sleepwalking me left the door ajar. I raced up the stairs to Evelin’s room. All was ok in there, my clothes still laid out on the floordrobe. But I was terrified. The room, at least how I was seeing it, awash blue like the onset of a stress-induced psychotic break. The illumination reminiscent of my parents’ bathroom, the sun rises and falls so much faster than the west of Ireland. I made the decision to dress and go home to attempt sleep, preparing myself for all the fears and endless scenarios that kept me awake at night. Not before having another cautionary wipe though, I’m not an animal.
I texted Evelin to say I had to go home to take my upset stomach medication, which was true. I wasn’t lying, only leaving out information, just like when I tell a chosen few people this story I leave out the part about definitely shitting on a wall outside this good lady’s house.
Walking, yet again, by the angry Arab man’s house, who deserved to be fucking furious, I threw up my hood and saw him speaking to the cops. Such an American image: furious man on his stoop, blue and red cycling flashes. Me on the verge of feeling the brunt of the militarized police force’s personal PTSD vent. Even if you’re white, you can’t read the news and not fear the American po po five-o yo. It’s hardly Spain, but I have enough Irish mates who have received beatings to found that fear, and I fucking deserved it.
The greatest of all walks of shame in my life, and I’ve hardly walked any other way. Strolling home into the horizon of sun rise was of no pride that day, I shared the city streets with no one but sleeping homeless people. Hotdog foil dusted the streets, excess mustard and long since sweated onions with charred edges. The city -or at least the Mission seemed in that moment more dangerous to me than it ever had done before. Fortunately, I was too empty to actually shit myself. Utterly horrific wretches brought on by self-contempt were yet to greet me at home after my adventure.
I don’t think that was any sign of the drinking problem that was flowering like an invasive weed at that stage in my life, I had a sensible head laid down on the bed that night, but it sure as shit scared the shite out of my sleep walking problem.