Living Out Loud: : Sleepwalking

Knives for cotton swabs and Parmesan cheese for coffee

For a while now, I've carried a knife. During my horse training years, knives were essential tools. Three times a day, hay bale twine had to be cut to feed the horses. Bare hands couldn't break twine, but it was fun to watch an amateur try.

This year, I got a new knife — an artistic, quick switchblade, intimidating and nearly too beautiful to use. Covered in etched ivory, it reminded me of Goonies and treasure chests. Maybe it'd be better placed in the hands of a dead pirate, a dead poet or inside a glass case resting on museum velvet.

One morning soon after I got the new knife, something weird happened. Getting ready for work, I reached for the Q-tips in the bathroom cabinet but the box was curiously empty. I knew the Q-tips were full the day before, because I'm the "make lists and don't run out" kind of person.

I was puzzled.

Everything seemed alright until I headed to my desk, a conference table smothered with pictures and concert ticket stubs. My knife was resting in the center of the table in between photos, as if another part of the collage. I never, ever left it out.

When I looked inside my purse's hidden pocket where the knife usually was, there they were, all 90 Q-tips, give or take a few. Apparently, in my sleep, I removed the weapon, pouring cotton swabs in its place.

I had no recollection of the event. I didn't remember any dreams, good or bad.

One day after the knife incident, I went to make coffee. I filled the coffee maker with water as usual, but then I found something unusual.

There was a paper filter already in there, but instead of grounds it was full of Parmesan cheese. It seems that during the night I attempted to make Parmesan coffee but didn't quite follow through.

A day soon after, I spied a plate full of crumbs on top of my old horse trunk. I'm not sure what I ate during the night, but I hope it was good.

Then, when I journeyed to the bathroom, the mud mask and toothpaste were out on the sink. The mud mask didn't look suspicious, but the toothpaste held considerably less paste. After my unidentifiable meal, I must've brushed the hell out of my teeth.

Either I have ghosts, my cats are becoming human or I've taken up sleepwalking. Maybe my body is acting out dreams or dealing with past trauma, but I don't have it that bad. One friend wrote me to say that he once woke up on his neighbor's doorstep.

Unfortunately, he was already in the process of ringing the bell, and there was no turning back. I thought about how I might explain that one. When they answered, would I suck it up and say, "Hi," or would I run for my life, hoping they didn't catch a glimpse of my pajamas? That's assuming I had PJs on.

I decided to examine my life, one of my favorite pastimes. Surely my sleepwalking was due to some hidden neuroses.

I realized that I haven't sliced hay bales apart in a long time and that maybe my brain was processing some deep lesson of letting go. I ended up giving the knife back, wiping the slate and my horse boots clean.

So I thought.

A week later, I woke up on the couch with a lapful of Cheerios. Conscious or not, like horsehairs stuck in the soles of boots, I guess some things ain't that easy to let go of.

My latest theory: My body is plain bored.

I've never liked sleeping. I worry that I'll miss something.

If I go to bed late, I wake up early. Always have.

When I was little, I'd hide under the covers listening to music with headphones on until Mom caught me singing, putting an abrupt end to my bedtime concert. For a while.

Then my brother Matt would poke his head and his kid Afro into my room and say, "Shut up." I usually did. Matt meant business.

Slumber parties were torture. I tossed in my sleeping bag, trying to sleep, only to wake at 3 a.m. and fumble my way to the bathroom. Then I'd get lost and worry that the parents would find me in enemy territory.

Mornings, I'd stiffly wake at 9, staring at a strange ceiling in a strange house, silently waiting while the other kids snored on until noon. I remember thinking: "This is supposed to be fun? I want some cereal. Let's get on with it already."

So I might make Parmesan coffee or mud-paint my face when no one's awake — not even me — but don't be alarmed. I figure my stubborn, restless being is bent on being creatively productive, even in sleep.



CONTACT C.A. MACCONNELL: letters(at)citybeat.com. Living Out Loud runs every week at citybeat.com and the second and fourth issues of each month in the paper.

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