By Katie C,
There are moments between deep sleep and wakefulness that no one truly comprehends while they are experiencing it. Your mind wants to drift back into dreams yet you’re stuck within this purgatory of night; you can still hear everything, nearly feel it but you’re not sure what’s happening around you.
If I had just woken up that night instead of letting myself fall back asleep then perhaps things would be different now. Maybe now I wouldn’t be so bitter—so unjustifiably loathsome of him. I try not to be, yet I am.
The day had been humid with an incessant hum of late-summer insects ringing in our ears. Later, when the air lost its moisture and a cool breeze started, the world had felt fine. I was tired physically; my eyelids wanted rest but my mind was awake with restless wings and I wanted nothing more than to keep sitting on the porch, to go swimming in the creek behind my house, to enjoy my night with him. Tomorrow is such an unpredictable thing and that night seemed so sure to me that making it last seemed like my best option.
He yawned, and I tried to resist the urge to do so as well. Saturdays are the only day he gets to rest from working two jobs and he decided to spend it with me. I was grateful, but I could almost feel how tired he was. I wondered if the yawn that I barely managed to suppress was more so out of empathy for his fatigue despite what those sleep doctors claim.
Desperate as I was to pull an all-nighter and regret it the next day, I knew he needed sleep. I pulled him up, feeling the limp way he held on to me, and we went inside and got in bed. Sleep caught me almost instantly after my head hit the pillow but not before I heard his breathing get heavier as it slowly turned into snoring. I do not remember my dreams that night, but I’m sure they weren’t my usual nightmares.
Rolling onto my back in my sleep, I had put myself in that purgatory. I heard all of his movements: him kicking the blanket off, him sitting up, him reaching over. Only when he grabbed my neck and squeezed tightly did I wake up fully. Breathing became difficult but I was still able to. Struggling to sit up and failing, he started to talk loudly, obviously upset at whatever was occurring in his dream.
“Come on, you have to wake up,” I managed to say with pants in between my words. I set my hand on his cheek and his grip loosened on my neck. His eyes were still full of some hatred that I couldn’t understand. He would never remember what happened. When he has an episode, he usually never recalls anything. Occasionally he’ll remember standing in the middle of the room, searching through my closest for invisible objects.
As I cautiously removed his hand from my throat and got myself off of the bed, I wondered if he would remember attempting to strangle his girlfriend. I saw no reason as to why he should, he didn’t remember hitting me only weeks before.
His eyelids were already closing again; I made him get back under the covers to go back to sleep, but I suppose he had never been awake to begin with. I sat on the edge of the bed, watching him. My hands shook slightly and sleep was no longer an option for my wakeful state.
The next morning, I made him breakfast while he sat on the couch.
“Maybe you should do a sleep study or see a doctor soon. I’m kind of worried about you.”
“Even if I had time, I don’t think I need to. I’ll be fine either way,” he expressed with slight irritation.
I never told him about what happened. Talking while he’s asleep next to me happens every night. Sometimes when I hear him begin to move around more than normal, I nearly flinch. I don’t mean to, but I can’t help it. The more sleep deprived he is—and he is always sleep deprived—the worse his symptoms become.
I know he can’t help it, yet I despise the fact that he gets to sleep while I must cope with being woken up consistently through the night and await his unpredictable actions. It’s nearly impossible to convince someone as stubborn as him to do any sort of sleep therapy. Although I know it’s not his fault, I blame for not wanting to get help nearly every night.