• Shawn McNulty-Kowal

Those Nights

Living is a lot like sleeping. Or, perhaps not sleeping, but trying to sleep. Often, while I lie awake in bed, I anticipate the exact moment before I will fall asleep or I absolutely convince myself that I will not fall asleep. My legs don’t feel heavy enough or that pulse of mine, what I imagine as a miniature drum stowed somewhere behind rows of tendons that line my neck, keeps me awake. Tut tut. Over and over again. I once stayed in the South of France for a month and at night I’d hear dogs wailing from the very bottom of the valley and moths would find their way through cracks in the windowsill and flutter quickly into my ear and crickets, the length of my middle finger, would position themselves comfortably in the high corners of my room so they could chirp, Tssst Tsssst, free from the threat of my capture.


Trying to live is a lot like trying to fall asleep in a noisy room. My childhood bedroom is connected to my family’s laundry room. At night, the sounds of clothes, made heavy with soapy water, beating the metallic stomach of the washer play alongside the monotonous drone of the drying machine and the vision of falling asleep feels so far out of sight that I forget to look for it and I join in on the sounds that keep me awake.


Living is a lot like sleeping. The nights that keep laundry for morning’s work. The windy nights that the moths and crickets brace no matter. The nights that even old dogs find nothing at which to bark. When my legs don’t feel so much like hollowed bones, but like heavy bags of sand and the beat of my pulse is music, I suddenly feel capable of slumber. And as my night song plays, I remember what breathing sounds like and how my breath feels hot as it collides into my bedsheets. My eyelids just sort of unwind like a storefront’s awning. My thumb twitches a bit and I let my joints crack with each movement. The air coats my body entirely and perfectly and the breeze coming through my window is unimaginably gentle. That moment before I fall asleep is so quiet, I hardly know it’s there if I don’t take mind to look for it, but once I greet it, nothing seems to get in its way. I notice its impenetrability, the absolute calm of it all. How weightless and unbreakable. I imagine living is a lot like that.


But I always seem to wake up even after I thought I caught that moment for good, stuffed inside my back pocket. Suddenly, I'm awake and there's so much more to think about other than crickets and dirty laundry. Perhaps, living is nothing like sleeping.




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