As I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, I’ve been fighting a losing battle with insomnia my whole life. the reasons I can’t sleep are varied. There’s worry about things like money, whether or not the mole just above my ear is an untreatable melanoma, and Obama’s reelection chances. There was the time when I was, let’s say 8, when I couldn’t sleep/stop crying during a sleepover with my cousin because, having recently seen an episode of 20/20, on the topic, I was convinced that I would someday soon be he recipient of a mail bomb. Maybe I can’t sleep because I’m excited about embarking on a trip the next day or, when I was a kid, Santa’s pending arrival. And what normal person hasn’t been kept up all night because he or she has had one line from one Bette Midler song running through his or her mind on a continuous, ceaseless loop for 17 hours? With these general, everyday insomniac occurrences I do eventually tire myself out and fall asleep. Sometimes it helps if you just let the tears come. No, I never did know that I was your hero, but I’m so glad you’re telling me now. Good night.
Unfortunately there are certain occasions when nothing can be done to lull me to sleep. In fact, these instances are so threatening to my psyche, that I don’t even try to sleep–I downright resist it. These special nights happen anytime I find myself in a group (more than 1 person, with that one person being me) sleep situation. I do not, under any circumstance, like the idea that someone might see me sleeping. Maybe it’s because growing up I always heard stories (or, let’s be honest, watched kids talking about it on TV shows) in which some poor idiot fell victim to the old hand-in-warm water trick when he fell asleep early at a slumber party. Or maybe the time I screamed bloody murder when I was, let’s say 8 again, and I woke up to find my mother’s face hovering an inch from my own when she was trying to get me up for school had a more lasting impact than it should have. Honestly, I think the incident with my mom had the exact right impact severity. It taught me a valuable lesson. Never allow yourself to be vulnerable, and there’s no more vulnerable state than asleep. Okay, there is actually one more vulnerable state, and that’s dead. Thinking about what all will be done to my defenseless body after I die is another thing that gives me insomnia. It’s exhausting.
I’ve had a few run-ins with group sleep, but I’d like to tell you about the two with the worst (best?) results. This post is going to have to be a two-parter, because it turns out I can go on about this subject at some length. First up:
When I was in the 7th grade, I went on the same class trip that every kid from the Midwest goes on. Thursday afternoon after school, a couple hundred of us hopped onto three chartered buses and made way for Chicago. I imagine the primary concern when taking a bunch of 12 and 13-year-olds on a trip like this is that you can’t watch all kids all the time and that there could be some tobacco or marijuana smoking that takes place when the chaperones aren’t paying attention, or that there will be some sort of rampant sexual exploration among the newly hormonal youths. After all, there’s no better place to give someone a hand job than at the back of stale smelling bus. The thing that should have kept the faculty chaperones up at night, though, should have been whether or not a sleep deprived, drunk-like Carrie was going to stumble out into traffic, surrendering her dead vulnerable body to the medical examiner when it got flattened by a UPS truck.* Judging by the fact that I’m the only person I’ve ever met with this problem, I don’t imagine it occurred to them that I could or would go more than 48 hours without sleep. Well I showed them.
I knew as soon as my two roommates and I got to our room at the hotel that I wouldn’t sleep. Not that there was anything unexpected or unusual about our sleeping arrangements. It’s perfectly normal for 3 or 4 people to share two double beds in one small room–in some sort of Siberian work camp or Roald Dahl novel. I don’t think it hit me just how unacceptable I’d find the shared room situation until I was actually staring it in the face.
Years after this trip, one the girls who I bunked with that weekend still swore that she walked into the bathroom in the middle of the night to discover me asleep in the tub. I promise that never happened. I submit the following as proof. 1) Even when I do sleep, I am such a very light sleeper, especially under such unique circumstances, that, even if I had fallen asleep in the tub, the sound of someone else coming into the bathroom would have startled me awake, scaring me so badly that my heart would have exploded in my chest, leaving my dear mother with just one daughter, a daughter who would not, on account of being dead, be sitting here typing up this story. 2) I have a very clear memory of how I spent every moment of that night. Bored. This was a pre-iPad, pre-Internet, pre-Carrie-who-likes-to-read world. I had a deck of cards. I sat on the tiled bathroom floor all night playing about 428 hands of solitaire. When I had my fill of that, I practiced throwing cards into the empty trashcan. The only other thing I did in that bathroom that night was check my watch every 19 seconds, counting down the minutes until everyone else would be up and we could get this fucking show on the road. 3) Why would I have climbed into the bathtub? If I was making a conscious effort not to sleep, I wouldn’t have bothered abandoning my spot on the floor for the relative comfort of the more ergonomically oriented tub. To have climbed in the tub would have implied a decision to try to sleep. If my roommate had found me asleep in the bathroom, it’s much more likely I would have been slumped over in the middle of the floor, having lost the fight to stay awake. 4) Not part of my argument, but let’s take a moment to consider what kind of shit is living on the floor of a hotel bathroom. That is some nasty shit. Anyway, my point is that I didn’t sleep that night. It wasn’t my first intentional all-nighter. I’d had to stay up all night once in the 5th grade to finish a report on the great state of New York, but at the end of that very long night, my mom agreed to drop my report off at school and let me call in sick. At the end of my bathroom floor party for one I had to run around both the Field Museum and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
I know it might seem like the last 1200(ish) words have been leading up to this moment in which I entertain with a kick-ass story about some sleep-deprived shenanigans that ensued on my sleepless foray through these museums, but we’re actually close to the end of the story, because I don’t remember shit. Have you ever wandered around a dimly lit creepy old museum with lots of creepy old shit after you’ve spent an entire evening on a hard-ass body-fluid-flecked floor trying and failing to launch playing cards into a trash can? Let me tell you, it’s a little unnerving. I lost all peripheral vision; it was as if I spent the entire day viewing my surrounding through a camcorder. Hell, for all I know, that’s what I thought I was doing. If there’s anyone reading this who was also on that trip, do you happen to remember seeing me weaving around the Field Museum with my left eye squeezed shut and my right hand held up to my right shoulder as if I was holding a video recording device? Did I attempt to interview any of you? Did it occur to any of you to just prop me up in a corner somewhere and collect me again before the bus rolled out?
The only thing I remember about the Museum of Science and Industry is that we went to a movie at their OMNIMAX® theater. In case you’re not familiar with what that means, and you never took Latin or Greek or whatever language gave us “omni,” it’s not the same as an Imax screen. An OMNIMAX® screen is more of a dome, and in order for everyone in the theater to have a similar experience watching the all encompassing dome, the rows of seats pretty much go straight up. The space between rows is pretty narrow. If, say, a 13-year-old who hasn’t had a lot of sleep were to trip over something she’s hallucinated while trying to get to her seat, it’s conceivable that she could tumble all the way to the bottom of the theater, breaking the necks of the people in the rows below her the whole way down. Luckily there was a railing to hold onto, and I was able to use the armrests of each of the seats as support as I navigated my way to my chair. I’m sure it just felt like the ground was moving beneath me. My next-door seat neighbor for the movie was my guidance counselor. Within the next 24 months, that same guidance counselor would grow to know me as the kid who writes short stories about suicide and walks around moping like she might like to jump out of one of the junior high school’s third story windows. At our shared OMNIMoment™ my guidance counselor probably just knew me as that kid who, in spite of being one of the only ones on the trip about whom he didn’t have to worry that she might be sneaking off into the museum’s bathroom to french kiss or smoke pot with one of the boys, was babbling incoherently. I don’t remember anything that I said. I just remember that the words were coming out of my mouth before I’d actually thought them and that, at least to my ears, it sounded as if I’d had a stroke. That sort of speech is sort of tear inducing when it’s coming from Dick Clarke or Kirk Douglas, but I have to imagine it’s a little less touching coming from a 7th grader. I wouldn’t have blamed my guidance counselor if he’d made me submit to a breathalyzer. Luckily I pulled my shit together once the movie started. A movie I’d, thankfully, already seen. I say thankfully because this particular show was about sharks, and since I was already having some issues with my spacial perception I’d say knowing what to expect probably helped me not wet myself during the scene where it looks like a great white shark is unhinging its jaw for the express purpose of swallowing the audience members whole.
That’s literally all I know. I didn’t sleep until I got home, at which point I think I slept for 18 straight hours. A few weeks later at school, during our lunch break, I looked at my science teacher, one of the trip’s chaperones, and instantly felt embarrassed. I didn’t remember what I’d said to her there in the Egypt section of the Field Museum, but I remembered the confused look and polite giggle she directed my way as she moved on to another display. I quickly finished my lunch and ran over to my teacher who, by the way, eventually married my aforementioned guidance counselor. Coincidence? I think so. “Miss Kardashian?” Her name wasn’t actually Kardashian, but her real name escapes me now. She was Armenian though, so I’m going with the only Armenian name I can remember. “Miss Kardashian?” she turned and waited for me to continue. “I’m so sorry if I made an idiot of myself when we were at the Field Museum. I hadn’t had any sleep, so I was feeling a little loopy.”
Maybe that confused look, polite giggle while walking away combo was just her signature move.
*Note: It could just as likely have been a FedEx truck.