Death On My Doorstep
One spring day back in the 90s, when I was living in Lake Dallas, Denton county, Texas, we had a terrible storm. I was working as a graveyard shift security officer at the time and did all my sleeping during the day. It was undetermined whether there had been a tornado, but the dangerously high winds caused a lot of damage to the area. When I awoke late that afternoon the storm had passed.
My next door neighbor had a huge old Cottonwood tree that was felled by the storm. People from blocks away heard the tree meet its end. My bed was close enough to my neighbor’s tree that I could have been killed or severely injured if it had fallen in a different direction, but it never fazed me.
I slept right through it.
The Barbecue Crisis Call
Several years later I had moved back home to Paris, Texas. I was working the graveyard shift, once again, but now I was working as a shelter advocate at a battered women’s shelter. There wasn’t a lot to do during the graveyard shift, as the residents and their children were usually asleep, but one of my duties was to man the crisis line. We would often go days without a crisis call, but it was important to be at the ready when one did come through.
The night shift shelter employees were allowed to nap and there was a bed available for us in case it was needed. Being a night owl, I did most of my sleeping during the day but occasionally I wouldn’t get enough sleep and would take advantage of my on-the-job napping privilege.
On one such night, as I was sleeping soundly on the job, I awoke to find the crisis line in my hand. I pulled it away from my ear, trying to make sense out of the situation, when I heard a woman’s voice say, “Are you still there?”
“Yes, I’m here,” I answered.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand you. You’re not making a lot of sense.”
That’s when I realized I had been having a conversation with this woman … in my sleep. I had no earthly idea what her situation was or what I had said to her, so my gut instinct was to simply ask, “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I keep telling you I’m okay. I just don’t understand what barbecue has to do with anything I’ve said.”
Apparently I was either dreaming about barbecue or I was wishing I had some. Or maybe I thought I was speaking to a barbecue delivery service and was simply placing my order. Who knows? I couldn’t very well ask her what had happened during the last ten minutes. Asking such a question would probably be interpreted as unprofessional, so I winged my way through the rest of the call and always made sure to show up well-rested for future shifts.
Sherlock Brain to the Rescue
Several years later I was living with my late partner, Connie. I was sleeping and awoke to find her putting something in one of the dresser drawers.
“What are you doing?” I asked groggily.
“Isn’t it obvious?” she answered.
But it wasn’t.
I had no earthly idea what she was doing. Brainy had not yet remembered that it inhabited a human body that resided on planet Earth, so there was no making sense of such things yet.
I continued to study Connie’s movements as she folded things and put them in drawers. Slowly Brainy started putting the pieces of the puzzle together until I was given enough information to finally make sense of it all. That’s when I loudly exclaimed, “You’re putting up laundry!”
Connie was not impressed with my brilliant powers of deduction, but I think I may have startled her with my outburst.
Hamburgers and Monkeys
About a year later I was managing a convenience store in Waco, Texas. I worked long hours and was always exhausted. Connie and I both knew I couldn’t be trusted with the telephone on my side of the bed so it was always on her nightstand in the event of a middle-of-the-night call.
One night we received such a call after midnight. My alarm was set for 4:30 am. I never awoke for this phone call but apparently I had a very interesting conversation nonetheless.
I went to work the next morning, still oblivious to having received a phone call in the wee hours of the morning. It wasn’t until the end of my shift when Robert showed up to relieve me that I was made aware of the previous night’s call.
“What were you talking about last night?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I called you last night.”
“No, you didn’t!” I argued.
“I was having a problem with the paperwork. I couldn’t make the money balance so I called you. You started telling me how to make the perfect hamburger. You went into a lot of detail. I brought up the subject of the paperwork again and then you started talking about all the monkeys in the trees. I finally gave up and figured it out on my own.”
I accused Robert of pulling my leg and when I got home that evening, still believing that Robert made up the whole story, I told Connie about it.
“He wasn’t pulling your leg,” she said. “That’s exactly what happened.”
“Did it ever occur to you that monkeys in trees and perfect hamburgers weren’t exactly store-related topics?” I asked.
“It did seem rather strange,” she said, “but I figured you knew what you were talking about. Besides I wanted to hear the end of the story.”
Because that job was so stressful for me and because it required me to work 12 to 16 hour days, I was often sleep deprived and occasionally overslept. It wasn’t uncommon for me to hit the snooze button repeatedly until the alarm finally woke me up, but occasionally I would simply turn off the alarm clock in my sleep preferring not to be bothered. On several occasions Connie would wake me up after I had overslept, yelling, “You’re going to be late for work!”
As previously mentioned, Brainy can’t make sense of the world immediately after awaking, so on these occasions when I would oversleep and was startled awake by Connie’s helpful but alarming warning, Brainy would simply alert me that it was time to panic.
I would jump out of bed and in my stupor I would run around the bedroom aimlessly, picking up random objects – thinking I needed them for some reason – and continue to run around trying, unsuccessfully, to make sense of the world with a pillow in one hand and a flashlight and yesterday’s dirty sock in the other.
Connie would usually intervene at about this point and calmly and slowly explain to me that I was running late, that I wouldn’t have time for a shower and that I would need to get dressed and drink at least a half cup of coffee before I was able to leave. She would then take whatever objects I had managed to pick up during my maniacal run through the house and would introduce me to the closet while explaining that clothes could be found within. She would then leave me to my own devices as she started the coffee.
My point in sharing these anecdotes was to convey to the reader that I’m a heavy sleeper and generally spend my first 15 minutes of apparent consciousness in a state of delirium. I hope I succeeded in this endeavor because I have one more story which just occurred this last weekend.
Serial Killer Comfort
I have a relatively new Facebook friend who has been going through some stuff recently. Friday night I sent her a message inquiring as to how she was doing. I then took a two-hour nap and immediately after awaking I decided to check my Facebook notifications. She had responded to my message with, “I’m alright”.
Anytime I simply answer, “Fine”, “Okay”, or “I’m alright”, it generally means I’m not, so in my sleep-stupor I decided to respond.
I told her I didn’t believe her but understood that she might not want to talk about it. Then, in an attempt to offer comfort, I thought it would be a good idea to bring up Jack the Ripper.
I explained to her that my listening and communication skills may rate lower than those possessed by the 19th century serial killer but that I have an aversion to blood and am too lazy and skittish to go around killing people.
This was Brainy’s idea of comfort with a dash of humor. I was barely able to keep my eyes open as I typed the message. Immediately after hitting “send”, I went back to sleep.
My mind is almost always busy. It often keeps me awake for hours when all I want to do is sleep. The only time it’s quiet is after waking up – which simply proves that my delirium is more powerful than Brainy … at least until the former starts to fade.
I awoke again early Saturday morning. I had been up for the better part of an hour and was on my second cup of coffee when my stupor started to leave me. That’s when Brainy took over and cheerfully announced, “Jack the Ripper”.
Jack the Ripper? Why am I thinking about him? Did I have a dream or something? I don’t remember dreaming about Jack the … OH MY GOSH! NO! Please tell me it was just a dream!”
That’s when I started to remember that while most of my body was virtually dead to the world Brainy decided to offer words of comfort by sending a message of blood and murder.
I immediately opened Facebook to see what I had been up to during the night and found my “message of comfort”.
I sent another message: “Please ignore the last message and please just know that I hope you’re really okay. I vaguely remembered writing something about Jack the Ripper and thought, ‘Oh no! What have I done? And why did I think that was okay?'”
I panicked much of Saturday until I finally heard back from her. Thankfully, she saw the humor in the situation and wasn’t disturbed by it.
But I was!
I now know I’m capable of sleep-messaging and am dreading the day when I next inflict my demented brand of textual terror on another unsuspecting victim.