Tuesday, October 28, 2008
All Night Long
It’s 10:37 at night. I jump up from the phone call, start stuffing an overnight bag with toiletries and clothes. There’s an opening at the Sleep Center, and if I hurry, I can make it.
I’m doing a sleep study because I have a terrible habit of falling asleep at the most inappropriate times: driving, typing at the computer, having sex. So, after months of waking up to, “Honey, was it good for you, too?” I decided to take action.
The study? Well, it’s like a sleepover. . .at your doctor’s office. I pull up to the darkened office building and walk in, a little disoriented.
“Hello, you here for the sleep center?” I hear above me. Hanging over the balcony four flights up, a guy in scrubs waves at me. “Come on up!”
There’s a partition dividing the office, and I can see monitors and graphs at two stations where the two sleep technicians, Jorge and Deidra, sit and watch me as I sleep. All night long. I’m glad that medical school led them to such a fulfilling career.
Deidra shows me my room, which is behind the receptionist’s desk. The walls are oatmeal. There’s a quilt on the bed, a Mary Cassatt print of a mother and baby napping on the wall. The decorations are overstuffed country, like a Vermont bed and breakfast. I dress quickly in my pajamas, trying to figure out if the hidden camera was placed in the stuffed animal on the shelf or is shooting from behind the potted plant.
Jorge and Deidra bustle in the room to get me ready. They become fascinated with my selection of sleepwear. “Lucky Charms,” Deidra exclaims. “How cute!” “You know,” said Jorge. “We see the most interesting pajama pants in here. Someone once wore Pepsi pajama pants!” They both giggle. I mumble something about how my church youth group all made Lucky Charm pajama pants as a project, and since I was a leader, I had to have a pair. But I get a sinking feeling that the next time someone does a sleep study, Jorge and Deidra will tell them the story of the Lady Who Wore Lucky Charms Pajamas. Why, I think, why I didn’t wear my gray sweats?
Jorge and Deidra start to attach diodes to my scalp, my legs, and my chest. They massage patches of pink gum at my temples and hook up wires.
After the 10th wire is attached, I think, shouldn’t they be done by now?
After the 20th, I start to feel uneasy.
After the 30th, I panic.
This is when being a fan of sci-fi movies works against me. The 6th day, the Matrix, Jacob’s Ladder, Minority Report, Brainstorm: nothing good happens to anyone’s brain that’s hooked up with wires. Ever.
I regret watching La Jetee last week.*
“Now,” said Deidra. “We need to place this around your neck before we get into bed.” She places a large plastic donut around my neck. This is the mother ship: the other end of all those wires that had been attached to me. Hanging from my neck, it looks like a switchboard is bursting from my chest.
I don’t know how I can sleep with the donut on my chest, but thankfully it hangs on the wall. I only have to pull it down and carry it with me if I use the restroom at night. You know, like when your 8th grade teacher thought it was funny to have you use a toilet seat as a hall pass.
“But before I can dim the lights, we have to test the equipment,” said Jorge. His accent is breathy and he’s still a little bit giggly. “Now, raise your right arm. Now, your left. Raise your left leg. . “
And turn yourself around, I think.
“Let’s have you breathe in,” said Jorge. “Hold it. Now breathe out. Now, push your tummy out as far as you can. Farther. . .now, suck in your tummy. And breathe out. In and out, very, very fast. No, faster. Hee hee, out the mouth.”
I get labor flashbacks. Deidra must be at her station in the other room, laughing her arse off.
Finally, lights out. Now, just relax, I tell myself. This is just like sleeping at home. My muscles relax, and I start to fall asleep, when a thought strikes me like a jolt of caffeine: They are watching you.
I can’t shake off the nagging paranoia, no matter what I do. I try to imagine restful beach scenes, I scoot, trying to get a more comfortable position. No good. Despite me desperately trying to contain myself, I let out a little fart. Just enough for the microphones to pick it up.
They heard that.
After about three hours of forcing myself to relax, I sit up. Five seconds later, Deidra opens the door.
“Everything all right?”
This does not help my paranoia of being watched.
I just can’t sleep, I tell Deidra. “Well, we can give you a sleeping pill.”
Now, she tells me.
I take the pill, and shuffle off to the bathroom.
I start thinking about the sleep study, and while on the toilet, start to fall asleep. That would be ironic, I thought. But I got up, because the last thing I’d want is for Deidra to come in here and find me asleep on the can. That would insure my induction into the halls of sleep study freaks forever.
But I make the mistake of glancing into the mirror while I wash my hands. Strands of multi-colored wires sprout from my scalp. My skin glistens with the gum that they used to affix the wires with. And with my drooping eyes and slack jaw, I look about two steps away from being committed.
With that pleasant image in my head, I go back to bed and crash at about 2:47 am. Next thing I know, Jorge is shaking me awake. “Come on, it’s time for you to wake up and go home,” he says in a singsong voice.
I stumble through the parking lot and drive home with a prayer in my heart. Please, please let them get enough data so I don’t have to do that again.
Later, I fall asleep in class again. “Bad night, huh?” my classmate says.
*For those that don’t know, La Jetee is a black and white film. It’s French. It’s nihilistic. It’s about a man who travels through space and time with the aid of a padded bra strapped over his eyes. I’m telling you, it makes for a fun weekend.
Posted by Dustbunnies at 10:18 PM