Another night. I just smoked two cigarettes in less than an hour and I’m feeling bad because that means I’m getting back on the horse. In winter, cigarettes are a blessing and a retreat, but I find myself in these loops where the cigarette makes my chest light and my body all shaky and then I need another one. But when I go outside to smoke, it’s cold and I can’t get warm when I come back in until I take a shower. So I smoked two cigarettes and took two showers in an hour. I’m worse than a crack addict.

Sometimes, it gets so cold at night that my car won’t start in the morning, and every twist of the key just drains it more until, after a few twists, the only sound coming from the car is an empty clicking from the spark plug, and I can see my breath wisping about here and there. I’m feeling like that. The last cigarette didn’t do much other than make my mouth taste like shit. I’m not turning over. Need a jump.

I’m laying on the floor in my underwear staring at the ceiling now. Carpet tickling my wet back, ten thousand hoary little tongues lapping up the few remaining droplets. My mind won’t stop. Between those cigarettes and showers, I let my laptop drill content and light into my eyeballs. It always makes my brain feel like an overloaded washing machine. I’ll stare at the monitor, shaking and rubbing my arms. Jittered up-and-down strokes. My hand produces a sandpapery sound on the skin of my arm. I could use some lotion, but this retard on the Internet saying mass shootings are a market commodity could use a Bible.

Everything is edgy now, who gives a fuck, I think to myself on the floor, chest heaving, breaths leaving my chest with a wheeze like a tar-clogged bellows.

And then, from somewhere, I have this phantom realization that my eyes were closed as I had laid there. Actually, I realize I can’t remember if I had my eyes closed or not. My heart jolts a bit; I can never know whether I had my eyes closed the moment before I realized they were open.

Well, they are open now.

Above me, the ceiling is heavy and stationary. I imagine it slowly, imperceptibly bearing down on me, sliding down between the four walls like a reverse cookie-cutter. I think I wouldn’t move. I’d be oblivious, especially if it was silent. I’m stuck so far in my own head that I probably wouldn’t notice until the rough, popcorn-paper surface touched my nose gently, and then harder, and then much harder, and then POP! Lights out.

Yeah, I think, I oughta go to bed.

I move to my bed, pull the blankets over me in a kind of haphazard disorderly way. They’re laying across me latitudinally, but I just fold myself into the fetal position because I can’t be fucked to fix them. I lay there.

Time means nothing here, in bed. This is especially true with a woman, but I haven’t seen one of those in some time. Alone, I face it with apprehension on most nights. Sleeplessness is a quick eternity. Every few seconds I’ll roll over to see thirty minutes have gone by on my alarm clock; I’ll pass into unconsciousness; I wake abruptly, jolt into the real world after a head-on dreamcrash, and then it’s just five minutes later. It’s 3:30 AM and 7:00 AM at once, each number as meaningless as the other when you have no reference.

My room is pitch-black dark, but from the ether again comes the thought that I have just opened my eyes. I can’t say suddenly, because the thought seems to just be there at the same moment that it seems to have just arrived. My eyes were closed before now, when they are (currently) open, but I knew my eyes had always been open, as they are now, even as they had previously been closed. I could say that with certainty.

I’ve always seen, but my eyes were closed even though they were open.

Everything I’ve given an ounce of thought to comes into relief against this semi-epiphany. People say much more than there are possible distinct thoughts and they always fall into different categories, but they are all man-made, which isn’t to say they don’t have value, but they are not eternal. They do not come to you when time is not there, when the world of the material melts. They are every possible twisted and ersatz idea flying at you like a Canada goose into a jet turbine. These ideas are reactions to the world more or less.

But there’s a component of the subjective (read: me) that is uncreated, not influenced by the big grey storm clouds hanging above the town or the cell tower signals bouncing like rubber balls off the insides of my skull or the little chemical bonds in my skin and bones. It exists and it is beat down every moment I check my watch. It’s a beautiful little value-creating feedback loop. Your gut may not be correct in a laboratory, but I can scarcely imagine a place more fake. The absolute exists so that the individual can exist for itself. The universal exists so that the individual can palate his existence for the other, as a means to an end. And remember, there have always been Pharisees and there have always been charlatans. In the beginning was the word and the word was with God. The word is God, and God’s existence sustains the word. He is now at the same time that He always has been. These are the principal differences between things that matter and don’t matter, things that are matter and are not matter.

“Huh,” I say aloud.

I finally fall asleep sometime after that, and wake up later that day, tossed back in the illusion as soon as I go to work. The minutes tick by and I realize all of it, all the ordering, is this large man-made playpen. I already knew that, but I get it better now. At least I’m rested. I’ll head to the store afterwards and grab a book by St. John Chrysostom or C.S. Lewis or Chesterton or something. There’s a Bible from my parents on my nightstand.


“Sleep Aid” won third place in Terror House’s Easter Submission Contest. To read all of the winning stories, click here.