The room was dark except a single red LED.
I had been having the most wonderful quarantine dream that seamed to be going on forever and the memory of which did not last a nano second after I had awakened. Normally, I have an exceptionally good sense of time. I know the time without checking but it had failed me. As a consequence, I opened my iPad as I had fallen asleep with it on my chest. The screen remained dark, the battery having expired as I dreamt. I lifted my arm above my face. The luminescent dial of my watch read “3:31.”
I had been asleep for nearly 4 hours but it felt like I had slept 10. I was not the least bit sleepy and knew that trying to fall asleep again would be a fool’s errand. Normally, in situations like these, where it was too early to get up and where sleep was impossible, I read. Usually, mystery novels from my iPad. They distracted my psyche from the death spirals of negative thoughts that I was prone to in the middle of the night. Especially now with Covid 19 consuming our days and haunting our dreams. But sadly, I had made a rookie insomniac mistake and failed to charge my iPad . It would useless in my fight against sleeplessness.
It was just me and the single red LED.
Well, me and my wife. She, as usual, was cuddled up next me making the gentle purring sounds that she often made when deeply asleep. She like me, is not an easy sleeper. While my challenge was the middle of the night awakenings hers was falling asleep. I had learned early on that she valued uninterrupted sleep when it came because making her go through the challenges of falling asleep again was likely to make her less than ecstatic. This was compounded by our desire to spoon (her in the back, me in the front) as it meant any movement could disturb her sleep.
This ruled out making a midnight raid on the kitchen in the hopes that my friends Ben & Jerry could help me with my dreams of sleep. I could not read a book as it would require not only movement but the turning on lights which would undoubtedly disturb my photophobic wife’s sleep not once, but twice. Even rolling over and finding a more comfortable position was ruled out for the moment as my wife was cuddled tightly behind me and in front of me was the precipice of the beds edge. I was, for all intents and purposes, trapped where I was.
Just me and that single red LED.
Well me and my mind. But I would not really wish that on anyone. I have, for better or worse, a very vivid imagination born of far too much reading and likely to little intellect. It meant that it was very easy for me to take an event or horror and personalize it. In the current crisis, for example it was far too easy for me to imagine myself with Covid 19, coughing and ill in a hospital where no one spoke English and I little Portuguese. Uncontrolled my mind, could take me to places that not only I did not want to go but where, after visiting, sleep would become impossible or be racked with nightmares.
That single red LED stared at me.
I closed my eyes to get out of its unceasing glare. I knew that I didn’t have it bad. I was in a relatively safe spot even though Brazil had recently become a hot spot for the pandemic. We had room to move around. Places to escape from each other when being alone was needed. Food was on the table and could be, at least for now, easily had. We had internet access and streaming video. While money is always a worry, for right now and, for the next little while, we would be okay. And in just 5 weeks, god and American Airlines willing, we would be on a plane home.
I had it so much better than so many. Probably most. For me to feel sorry for myself seem to be a “shanda.” A disgrace. Especially, considering that my best friend for the better part of 5 decades was currently in hospice care after an 18-month fight with brain cancer. How much happier would he be to have my problems?
I realized that one of the things that was adding to my agitation was our inability to talk to each other. We used to talk to each other almost every day, much to the chagrin of various of his girlfriends and ex-wife. They did not understand the need to talk to each other. They did not think it normal for two grown men to speak as often as we did. When his last girlfriend had started down this same path we had a conversation about how to the handle the issue with her.
I had asked “Doesn’t she understand we are mishpoocha?”
He had laughed, a deep booming chuckle and replied, “I don’t think she speak Yiddish.”
“Then explain it to her. That it means that even though we are not related we are family. Members of the same tribe. Besides what is she worried about. We are not talking about her. We are just kibitzing.”
“What does that mean again?”
“Kibitz can mean a couple of things but most it means just chat.”
“I could tell her that.”
“Or you could say that we just kvetch to other.”
“And that means …”
“It means to bitch or complain but maybe you shouldn’t mention that she will think you are kvetch about her.”
“You tell her that you like to schmooze with me.”
“Is this turning into a Yiddish lesson for my Mexican girlfriend….how would you define schmooze to her.”
“Gossiping or reminiscing but with heart not hate.”
“Anything else. “
There was a long pause and then I added. “You could say to her that occasionally I get schmaltzy and like to plotz and kvell about my mishpooka and that not only it would be a shande if this mishegas led to it being difficult to talk to each other, you be verklempt.”
A deep chuckle “You are wicked.”
“Thanks. I do my best.”
Thinking about that conversation produced a rueful smile and after a time, sleep. The single red light, forgotten.