TUESDAY: Good Night


Copyright is held by the author.

MY NIGHTLY routine. Wake up at 2 AM. Try to read, but the words do not make sense, because I am too tired. So I grab the TV remote. Already knowing my choices, I flip the channels. On the cable religion station, there is the lady with big hair who cries crocodile tears while she swoons over her love for Jesus. One of the paid program channels offers a home repair kit for do-it-yourself plumbers. The man is sort of cute in a plumber kind of way. CNN has breaking news; however, the news “broke” 72 hours ago.

So here I sit. I could make a cup of black coffee and just stay up. No, I need to sleep. Gulping a couple of shots of brandy might put me to sleep, but the morning would greet me with a pounding headache.

Why do problems always seem worse at night? My boss said, “I need to talk with you about your project.” In the wee hours of the morning that translates into You are doing a poor job.

My best friend snapped at me last week. Even though she called to apologize, in my sleep-deprived state, I feel unsettled. Is our friendship in jeopardy?

The list goes on. The night terrors include brutal self-reflection. I am a bad person. Why didn’t I call my mother? Fears of loss consume me at night. What if my dog dies, or my car breaks down? What if . . .

On the TV is a commercial for Ambien, the wonder drug, or so I thought. Several months ago, my doctor said, “Here are some samples. Let’s see if this sleeping pill helps your insomnia. I know the other medications have caused you problems. Be careful and only take a half dose.”

A half dose and I slept for seven hours the first night, waking up somewhat refreshed. Every night, I turned off the light, and the next thing I heard was the alarm clock in the morning. Bliss.

One lazy Saturday morning, I picked up my not-dying dog, Muffin, and went downstairs for a cup of coffee before our morning walk. On the kitchen table there was a vase of flowers, two cans of dog food and a box of laundry detergent, along with a Kroger receipt. I wondered, Did someone break in and leave gifts? As I made coffee, it hit me like a ton of bricks. My hands shook. The shopping expedition was all coming back to me. I remembered clipping the side mirror of a parked car, as I drove home from the store, one hand holding on to the vase of flowers. My God, did I wear my nightgown? Then I saw jeans and a sweatshirt on the chair. To complete the nighttime wardrobe, I had apparently worn unmatched tennis shoes. Muffin, sensing my anxiety, sat quietly by the door, not jumping to go outside. It all felt like a dream, a bad dream.

I am wondering about taking up smoking again. I always slept better after that last cigarette before turning off the light. A couple of health scares did scare me enough to quit the two-pack-a-day habit.

Oh hell, why not try Ambien just one more time . . .

  1. The waking nightmare that will not go away. Been there, done that. Ghastly, isn’t it when problems conspire to keep you awake all night. Decades later, they still resurface. Well written anxiety. The wonder drug probably won’t help, and cigarettes are an expensive way to die. Soldier on: that might work.

  2. “It hit me like a ton of bricks.”
    My only suggestion is to avoid cliches. Take the time and write another simile or metaphor. Otherwise, your prose will appear hackney. Worse, the discerning reader will abandon ship (He wrote fully aware of the irony).

  3. I was about to yawn until I got to “The shopping expedition was all coming back to me…”. Hmm. I think you should expand on that and write a proper story instead of abbreviating a good idea. I think the ton of bricks cliche is okay here because the narration is in the first person and I’ll make the assumption that that sort of language is part of the narrator’s character. IMO

  4. Good, if frightening, piece. I enjoyed it, even if it is a bit scary. The final line seems like a good set-up for a sequel. Maybe a road trip?

  5. I think the protagonist needs to try “mindfulness” or something.

    Good story with a good arc. For me it was not only relatable, it was an imaginative take on our modern angsts.

    I think the writing could be tightened up (edited). For example, would word contractions work for you ie. “there is” to “there’s” , “do not” to “don’t” etc.? I’d put a para break or 2 into that one long para you have, 2nd from end.

    One comment was about “it hit … bricks.” I’ve read about cliches and it seems that they are evil. Good writers are always coming up with new similes & metaphors. But sometimes cliches work I guess. Like when they’re in a quote and the writer’s trying to make the speaker seem real (real boring). Or maybe when the character is actually a brick layer and some bricks actually fall on him? Maybe not.

    Have fun with the writing. That’s what I’m doing too. And critiquing. It makes you think about it, which can only help with your own skills development.

  6. This little vignette is very relevant to today’s publicized addiction to prescription drugs. It certainly is enough to warn me off pain killers and sleeping tablets in future. I thought the buildup up was clever and deceptive at concealing the awful truth of what had transpired. Well done!

  7. I think it is very well written and made me feel good to know I’m not the only one with “night sweats.” (Is that cliche ok with the other critics)?

    I agree a follow-up story would be interesting.

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