I did not sleep well last night.
This is not a new occurrence for me. I cannot remember a time in my life where sleep has come easily. At the end of the day, my mind is usually full of the day’s events circling like a cyclone and the only shelter I can find is in reading books that allow me to forget about the day and slip into the fantasy world of narrative fiction or be lost in the stories of our collective history. With each paragraph the whirl of my mind becomes less and after a few pages (or chapters on bad days) the book falls from my hands and I enter the land of nod. If I wake up in the middle of the night and my mind turns to the tumult of the day or of the day to come a few more pages (or chapters on bad days) and I am able to re-enter the world of dreams.
Donald Trump and Covid19, as much as they can be distinguished from each other, has changed this somewhat. The spiraling tornados of my mind, which used to be F1 with every day worries have increased to F5 with worries about the incompetency, recklessness, and slash and burn tactics against our democracy of Trump coupled with his inability to do the basics to control the Covid epidemic. These days I am often forced to self-medicate before sleeping. Everything from a few fingers of nicely aged bourbon to a few hits of weed or prescription relief with a mild sleep medication. On those nights where I medicate the pages are fewer and if I find myself waking in the middle of the night, I can fall back asleep with relative ease.
Yesterday, was a particularly troubling day. 225,000 new cases of Covid with nearly 3,000 dead and yet there are still people arguing about the efficacy of masks and basic protocols such as social distancing and hand washing. Millions of people are out of work, without health care and threatened with eviction and hunger, small businesses are failing in record numbers and Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump and the Republicans are blocking bi-partisan efforts to help them. To top it off the Texas Attorney General files a nothing burger lawsuit against four other states constitutionally protected right to determine how elections are managed in the hopes to get a pre-emptive Presidential pardon from Donald Trump. That lawsuit was then endorsed by several other states and 110 Republican members of congress in an act of blind fealty to Trump with a total disregard for the constitution and seemingly little understanding of the awful precedent and damage it was doing to our democracy.
The Fujita scale tops out at 5. I was clearly at a 7. I took medication and it did its thing. I only managed a few pages of my current novel before falling asleep. But I did not rest. Instead, I dreamt.
I was sitting at the kitchen table of my parents’ home chatting with my mother. Mom despised Donald Trump. She saw him not only an existential threat to the country but as a vulgarian. She hated him so much that as she lay on her death bed our last act of kindness to her was telling her ( a full year before it really happened) Donald Trump had been impeached. Needless to say our conversation was about Donald Trump and I was explaining to her how it seemed to me that Donald Trump was doing everything he could to diminish our democracy. That this went beyond politics to the core of our institutions in our country. What else can it be when 7 million more Americans voted for Joe Biden legally than for Donald Trump; States certified 306 electors for President Elect Biden over 236 for Donald Trump, 53 out of 54 lawsuits have been dismissed, disregarded and or repudiated by judges of all parties; When at the core of our democracy Republicans are more concerned about political power than our constitution. I asked Mom when the moment would come when a political ally of Trump would tell him to stop harming the country and stand up for the constitution. When did country over party go out of style?
Mom did not say a word. I realized that is not what I had come for. I wanted one of her hugs. The ones you got when you were six and thought the world was ending because of some minor travesty. The hugs that made you forget your troubles and allow you to go giggling back into the world. When I went to claim my hug, I woke.
I was a little to shaken by my dream to go back to sleep. Instead, I made my way to the kitchen, artfully dodging Rosie, who was asleep on the floor directly next to my side of the bed. I am unusual in that having a little sugar usually allows me to go back to sleep. Luckily, my sister had given me a small supply of some of her holiday cookies. After eating one, two or three of them, I went back to bed in high hopes that sleep would find me. And after a few minutes of reading, it did.
I was in Memphis. Not the city but a bar of blessed memory on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They were famous for convex Martini’s and it was for a long time my favorite bar. Sitting next to me at the bar was my best buddy Rich. This was unusual for two reasons. I don’t think Rich ever went to Memphis with me and he died 6 months ago. Needless to say I was glad to see him especially considering that he had been considerate enough to order me a Chopin Martini blessed with two blue cheese stuffed olives. We slurped (you cannot initially lift a convex Martini) and then toasted each other silently. He said “How about that Donald?” Rich had (sorry for the politically incorrectness of this statement) a very Irish sense of humor where the dark is always mocked with a bit of wit and a grin. (e.g. Old man Murphy and old man Sean were contemplating life when Murphy asked, “If you had to get one or the other would you rather get Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s? ”Sure, I rather have Parkinson’s”, replied Sean“’Tis better to spill a couple of ounces of Jameson whiskey than to forget where you keep the bottle!”)
Years ago, we had been chatting on the phone, trashing Donald Trump and he decided that laughing about Donald was far better than crying about him. So he had bought the rights to a website called “OHTHATDONALD.COM.” He never populated the site, but it changed the arc of our conversation about Trump. Instead of bitching about Donald we would try to find the most absurd things the Orange one had said or done that day.
After my second sip of the Martini I inquired “Did you hear what Donald Trump said today when asked about total Covid 19 cases in the US reaching 15 million?” When RP shook his head I said “He thought it was great because we were close to 15% herd immunity.”
We said, “Oh that Donald” together.
I woke up before I had a chance to tell him how much I miss him for everything but especially for helping me keep it light. His humor and wit would be immensely helpful in these darkest of dark days.
Laying there in the dark, Rosie’s soft snores keeping the silence at bay and Elaine laying claim to my shoulder, I realized that I could not use my two favorite tricks to fall back to sleep. Reading would wake Elaine and cookie hunting would disturb the literal sleeping dog and no doubt raise Rosie’s ire. So I tried changing my thought process. Instead of the political things I would think of things that bring me joy and happiness. My inner dialogues version of “Rain drops on roses, and whiskers on kittens.” How graced I was to have a wonderful wife, who even though she immobilizes my arm from time to time, has never failed in being a great companion during these times of quarantine. She even laughs at my jokes. So many people are by themselves. Of course, there is Rosie. Everyone should have been issued a dog at the beginning of the pandemic. There is nothing like her completely unconditional love or how easily she can be bribed into a cuddle. Even though I could not get to the kitchen right now I know that my pantry, freezer and fridge are full. I am so lucky that for the time being these are things I don’t have to worry about, when so many people are facing empty bellies and eviction. I have a sister who bakes cookies for me, a brother in law who has good bourbon, and nieces and nephews who occasionally seem to be fond of me.
I was in a bustling lobby of a large building. There were mask wearing people moving quickly in all directions. I was looking for a friend. Someone I had not seen or talked to in a long while but there was an urgency to finding them. I wanted to make sure that they were okay. That their family was okay and they had enough to eat and were safe from the storm. I tried stopping the masked minions to see if any had seen my friend, but none would stop or even pause. They were far too busy with their own mission. All had desperate eyes.
My watch said 6:13 and I could smell coffee coming from the kitchen courtesy of my automatic brewer. Carefully removing my arm from Elaine’s clutches and gingerly stepping over Rosie, I made my way to the kitchen and poured myself a cup of freshly brewed Joe. There is something about that first cup of coffee in the morning, especially in the dark and quiet of the pre-dawn hours, that allow your thoughts to coalesce.
If you are sentient and living in the United States right now I suspect that you are having trouble sleeping. If you are not you have either achieved a higher level of Zen than I will ever have, or you are not paying attention.
An unseen, unchecked, deadly virus is swirling around us killing more people every day than died on 9.11 or Pearl Harbor and when it is all over will have killed more Americans than service member died during the 2nd World War.
Millions of our fellow citizens are out work facing hunger, displacement and a dimly lit future while corporations and the wealthy take advantage of government programs that were meant to help them.
Our congress, elected officials who are supposed to be representing us, cannot find the time or inclination to create a relief bill that would allow many of our fellow citizens a lifeline that could allow them to survive these unprecedented times.
We have a sitting President, whose job it is to protect and defend the constitution of the United States, doing everything he can to defile it and make a mockery of our democracy.
No wonder I want a hug from my Mom, share a laugh with my best friend, or hope that all I know are doing well. That is what dreams are for…