Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Microstory 1787: Flying Fish

Sleep and I have always had a love-hate relationship. I love it, but it resists me every single night. I was an adult before I learned that normal people fall asleep within twenty minutes. When my health teacher told us that, I wanted to punch him in the face, and knock him out. Then I wanted him to wake up, and punch me in the face so I would know what it feels like to not lie awake in bed for literally two hours. Over the years, I’ve tried some things to alleviate the problem: meditation, melatonin, stronger pills that put me, and the morning drivers around me, at terrible risk. Some of it has helped a little, but nothing has helped a lot. I would get six hours on a really good night, and I was proud of myself for anything over five. Now that I’m older, I’ve decided to prioritize my time better. Instead of staying up late, and waking up just before it’s time to go to work, I figured I may as well go to bed early, and have more me-time in the mornings. If it’s early enough, it’s still dark, so there’s no glare on my TV. That’s what’s really helped, waking up before sun, instead of fighting for every ounce of rest in those precious final moments. Now I lie awake for an hour, but since I give myself more time overall, I end up with seven hours, and it probably doesn’t get any better than that. I even try to avoid this thing called social jetlag, which means sleeping different hours on certain nights, which for most is due to not having to work on the weekends. Last night was different. It was a Friday, and I was in the middle of a good TV binge, so I decided it would be okay to go to bed at 23:00. That’s 11:00 PM for you people who can’t count past 12. It turned out to be a bad idea...for a bizarre reason. Had I gone to sleep at my new normal time, I wouldn’t have been awake to hear the man outside my window.

At first, I think it must be an innocuous noise. The purr of my refrigerator, the buzz of the street lights, the revving of a distant car. It isn’t so distant, and it isn’t so innocuous. It sounds like someone mimicking the sound of a motor with their mouth, and it only gets worse when he starts talking. “Flying fish,” he says, “flying fish”. Over and over and over again, “flying fish. Yeah, baby, flying fish.” Fuck, what does he want with me? I’m about to die, I’m about to die. What do I do? Don’t turn on the lights, then he’ll see that you’re here. Look out the window. No, not that one, it’s too close. I can’t see anything. What about the window in the study? Still nothing. Can you still hear him? “Flying fish.” Call mom, she’ll know what to do. No, bring the dog in first, and put her in her cage.  Then call mom. Shit, it’s late, they go to bed earlier than I do. Call 911, she says, that’s what it’s there for. Yes, it qualifies an emergency, call them now. Dispatch doesn’t understand my problem fully, but she dispatches a fleet anyway. Firetruck first on the scene. I look back out the window in the study. The firefighter is bent at the hip, hand on the shoulder of a man. He’s sitting in the street, up against the curb. He’s wobbly, and incoherent. He must be drunk. She’s being gentle and patient with him. Ambulance, police cruiser, that red pickup truck the fire station boss drives, another police cruiser. It’s okay, Daisy, go back to sleep. Chew on your cactus if you’re nervous. They load him up faster than I would have thought. I’ve seen car accidents in real life; been in a couple myself. They usually move slower than movies make it seem. They close the ambulance doors, and clear the street. The quiet returns, and it’s like they were never even here. Then a fish flies past my window, followed by another, and another. He wasn’t lying.

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