The Essay Who Took Sleep for Ransom
Written by
Nichole L. Reber
September 2011
Written by
Nichole L. Reber
September 2011
I don't think that when French philosopher Gaston Bachelard said, "How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream," that he meant writing therefore takes sleep for ransom.
Several hours had already gone into writing what would lead to the essay, "Burka to the Loo." Months later it was time to move its growth along, edit it, sell it. The piece started infiltrating my thoughts, occupying my days and evenings, until it finally co-opted my social life like a jealous lover, imprisoning me in my house rather than letting me go out with friends. She would not rest now that she saw the dawning of completion.
I knew what she wanted. She wanted a bit more undergirding information here, a few more literary references there. Her communication was either clearer than my other literary lovers, or I had grown into a better listener. My writing and I were in synch, and she was shaping up well on Sunday night...or so I thought.
Come 2 AM her voice had become a whisper when I climbed into bed. Over ninety minutes of tossing and turning later, however, her voice crescendoed from a wimper to a full blown sob. I tried to calm her by promising a prompt return tomorrow. She refused.
She wants a new intro. She wants an abbreviated conclusion. She chimes on about adding details. She's asking me about rhythm, humour, how readers will feel about her. She drones on tirelessly.
"A vulnerability to insomnia might well be the trait most commonly shared by serious writers throughout literary history," Greg Johnson wrote in an essay in the Virginia Quarterly Review. (Did he too suffer insomnia whilst writing that one?)
Later that night, the essay creeps into my dreams to turn them into nightmares. Then she simply decides sleep is not on my agenda. If she cannot enjoy my computer keyboard caresses, I cannot enjoy the luxury of sleep.  
"I know what you want. I'm pretty sure I know what you need, too. Please trust me, you are tomorrow's priority, but I have to work too. You aren't exactly paying the bills yet well as I'd like," I delicately think. Perhaps the cerebral lobe from which this side of cognitive dissonance arises is strong enough to overcome the other. It works, but not until 10 AM, after I've already had to cancel my first appointment of the day. It would, after all, have required me to leave the house. And this depth of insomnia had left me intoxicated with bloodshot eyes. Finally as soon as I'm able to get to the computer and start massaging her again, she backs off. She yields to my paragraph moves, arches her back when sentences slide into place. She's satiated as a post-coital lover. Then finally, all notes trashed, all edits accepted, all punctuation complete, the writing sleeps.
And that night I do too.

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