Thursday, March 15th, 2012
I'm sitting in a cafe on 3rd street and 2nd ave and believe it or not, I'm still shaking a little bit. Nothing really traumatic has happened, mind you, but I have quite actually just had a true Twilight Zone moment.
To be honest, nothing has been quite right since returning from Australia and New Zealand. I had a great time and the shows were really fantastic, but since returning to New York City, I have not slept a normal stretch of time at anything resembling a normal time to sleep. That was three weeks ago! I've been sleeping four hours here and five hours there, usually in the middle of the day or falling asleep in the evening and waking up at three am. It's been really, really messy and tiring and disorienting (not to mention highly inconvenient). I have found myself sleep-deprived, cold, pale and cracky through meetings, through teaching classes, through dinner, well, really most of the time since I've been back.
Well, yesterday I managed to nap twice for only twenty minutes each time during a period of over 24 hours. That's forty minutes of disjointed, unrefreshing sleep in a full day. It's really less like sleep and more like chugging a Red Bull to try and zombie through the next 6 hours. Needless to say, I was completely wasted when I got home at midnight. I opened a beer and sat on the couch. My wife beckoned me to come to bed but I told her I was going to drink the beer, take a quick bath and then join her. The next time I opened my eyes, I was still on the couch, the beer, still full, was sitting in front of me and my wife was gently nudging me. It was morning. "Honey, I'm going to the airport now. I have a flight to Chicago. I tried to wake you to come to bed, but you wouldn't budge." I barely responded. I think I kissed her then laid back down to sleep. I knew I had a lot of things to do this day. I have a show in Mexico tomorrow and today was the last time I had to pick up my costume from the cleaners, pack some merchandise, dye my hair, etc. But I was just too tired to get up. I figured I'd get up on my own around one or two pm and that would give me plenty of time to do everything. My son is leaving for Spain on a school trip tonight as well and after getting everything set for Mexico, I'd go meet him at his school to kiss him goodbye and wish him a great trip before he left for the airport with his classmates. I glanced over my shoulder groggily at my wife as she was dragging her bag out the door. "Have a good trip, honey." I groggily mumbled. The door closed. My eyes closed. I was out.
When next I awoke I was instantly taken by how dark it was in the room. We don't have much in the way of windows in our apartment and being primarily nocturnal, we keep them draped in all manner of heavy, dark fabrics to block out the sun. Nonetheless, I know what it looks like during the daylight hours in our apartment. It may be dark, but just enough light creeps through (and perhaps I might be subconsciously aware of the color temperature of that light) that I know the sun is in the sky just outside the windows. Not so now.
I sprang out of bed in a panic. The blood instantly started rushing through my veins. Had I slept the entire day away? I opened the windows. It was overcast and rainy outside and most importantly, it was definitely not daytime! It was dusk. While still sort of light out, the sun was clearly not in the sky. It was tucked away somewhere, perhaps behind some skyscrapers or just under the horizon. Oh no! Somehow I managed to sleep through not only the whole night, but the whole next day as well! I looked at the clock. It was 6:40! My first thought was that the dry cleaners had probably closed already and I wouldn't have my costume for the show in Mexico tomorrow! And then I remembered my son was leaving his school for the airport at 6pm so I had completely missed him. My heart sank even as it was racing and that was truly a strange and sickening feeling. We'd had a nice, long teary goodbye last night, but I was looking forward to seeing him off one more time. It's a little bit of a scary thing for a parent to send their child off to a foreign country and while I'm sure he'll be in good hands, a generous part of me is secretly anxious about the whole affair. I kicked myself. I looked at the clock again. It was inching towards 7'clock. What could I salvage of this day? Maybe there was a chance the dry cleaners were still open. I excavated the receipt from my wallet and called the number on it. There was no answer. What other options did I have? Maybe I could buy a different costume. I got on-line and looked up the website for the Gothic Renaissance store where I'd bought my furry-shouldered (and now AWOL) jacket. They closed at 8pm. I could make it there and maybe, just maybe they'd have another one? It was unlikely, but I figured that if they didn't I might just be able to find something else to wear at the show. While on-line I gave into the temptation to glance at my email inbox, Twitter and Facebook. I posted an update that read "Holy hell, I just awoke from a 19-hour nap!" Almost instantly, there were replies of surprise and funny retorts, but I knew I really didn't have time to read them all, so despite my deep loyalty to my growing internet addiction, I closed the laptop and sprang to action. I brushed my teeth, jumped into my clothes, threw my backpack over my shoulder and bolted out the door.
I walked out onto 2nd ave. It was dark and overcast but there were still signs of the sun lingering somewhere, its rays diffused by the great, gray blanket of rain clouds. I hailed a cab. I was surprised by how easy it was. One swung immediately around the corner and stopped to pick me up. Getting in I noticed several more available cabs coming down the avenue. That's strange, I thought. I generally find myself at this time of the evening fighting with hordes of businessmen and women for the few available cabs. I supposed I shouldn't complain. We raced south down 2nd ave. Quickly. Too quickly. Then it hit me. "Where is everyone?" I asked the cabbie, "there's no traffic."
"Oh, it will get busier later, I'm sure," he said.
"Later? but it's rush hour NOW!" I insisted. He didn't reply. And that's when things got even weirder. I suddenly noticed that a newsstand on 2nd ave was shuttered. Then I noticed that it wasn't the only one! There were all manner of stores closed, their metal gates pulled down and locked. I started to question what day it was. It's thursday, right? I asked myself. It's a weekday, right? I started to question my sanity. Why would so many shops be closed? Could it be a holiday maybe? There were available cabs everywhere, there was barely anyone on the streets of New York City and at seven in the evening there seemed to be almost no traffic approaching the Midtown Tunnel. There could only be one rational explanation. The zombie apocalypse had begun!
I looked up at the overcast sky and it struck me that it wasn't quite yet nighttime. There was still some light left in it, in fact, more than I had previously realized. As it happens, the dry cleaners I go to are Russian Jews and they close not at a specific hour, but at sunset. Technically, the sun had not completely left the sky and I was filled with a touch of, possibly foolish, hope. "Sir," I said to the cabbie, "there's been a change of plans. Please take me to 3rd street and 1st ave instead." He nodded. Maybe, just maybe, these guys would still be open and I wouldn't need to buy a new costume after all. We raced south.
When we arrived at 1st ave, I hopped out of the cab and hurried towards the dry cleaners. It was too late. A glance ahead of me revealed that their gates were down. My heart sank a little. No worries, there was still time to get in another cab and race to Gothic Renaissance before they closed at eight. I stepped out onto the street and put out my hand. In the near distance I saw an entire fleet of available cabs and again, no one on the streets. How could this be? I looked around me. The dry cleaners weren't the only ones closed. The Starbucks was closed. The deli was closed. Even Karma, a popular bar, was closed. What the hell is going on here? What kind of weird cosmic joke was this? WHY WOULD A BAR IN NEW YORK CITY BE CLOSED AT SEVEN IN THE EVENING ON A THURSDAY NIGHT? I was starting to feel my sanity slipping away.
I turned and there next to me was a truck loading items from the loading dock of the hardware store. Even the hardware store was closed! "I know for a fact they don't close until 9pm!" I screamed to myself in my head. A young man pushing a hand truck came between me and the loading truck. I stopped him.
"Sir, " I started hesitantly, "I apologize for bothering you...this is going to seem really weird but...." He looked at me with that look New Yorkers have when they are stopped in the street by someone and are not sure if they are going to be asked a legitimate question or be subjected to some money-extracting scam. "It's just, I'm a little confused...." I said. He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. "But, do you know why," I continued, "why all of the stores are closed?"
He looked at me a little confused and blurted out matter-of-factly, "Because it's seven in the morning."
I can't really begin to explain to you what I felt at that moment. I stuttered a bit, "Wait, what?" A chill went through me. "I'm sorry," I stammered, "I was asleep for a long time.... I thought it was seven pm." I said. I was in some kind of shock, I think. He just stood there looking at me. After a moment, I stumbled away as he stared at me blankly wondering if I was crazy or high on drugs. I had a brief moment of panic as I wondered if I'd slept for 19 hours or for 30 and straight into Friday, missing my flight to Mexico! But then slowing the realization started to sink it.
I hadn't slept for 19 hours. I'd slept for just under 7. I'd gone to sleep at midnight and woke up six hours and forty minutes later.
I'm not shaking anymore. Writing this all out has made me laugh at how silly it all is. I mean, obviously nothing really traumatic has happened, but I really did have a true Twilight Zone moment there. I can't begin to convey to you, how strange it feels. However inconsequential this situation has been it's incredible to feel the deep panic, the intense emotions of disorientation and shock I've just experienced. Running around this planet, seemingly conscious, we hold a certain reality as king in our minds. To then have it all crumble before you, it tastes of madness. I've felt this way before during those really big, soul shattering moments in life, discovering Santa Claus is a lie, being betrayed by a long-time lover, seeing the glass ceiling over your head for the first time.
The sun is up now. It's quite clearly morning and the sun's rays illuminate all of the dark corners, washing away strange feelings and bringing comfort and sanity. I have a revelation! The day I thought I lost is now before me like a lost treasure suddenly found! I will go to the dry cleaners and pick up my costume. I will pack merchandise and dye my hair and run all manner of errands. And at six in the evening, I will go to my son's school and give him a big hug and a big kiss and send him on his exciting voyage to a foreign land. Then eventually tonight, I will sleep, (hopefully at a reasonable time) and awake (hopefully at a reasonable time) and embark on a fantastic journey of my own to a different Spanish speaking land.
And with any luck, time will behave itself. And my perception of time will behave itself. And presumably, eventually, my body will reacclimate to New York time that I may go on with my life - minus bizarre episodes like this one. It's either that, move to Australia permanently or eventually go mad. But enough of that. The sun shines through the floor to ceiling windows of this cafe and I know the day is mine and I will love it and not waist a single drop of it!
I guess I'd better go update my Facebook and Twitter pages.