Pointless Stories: Sleep in Winter Part 2

My dreams were not kind, though and I knew even subconsciously that I had a class to attend not so long from now with no alarm to save me. I ran through cycles of panic and half sleep. My subconscious offered me the sweet illusion of the personal responsibility I lacked. I dreamt that I would wake up and stare at the clock just in time. Even in my dreams, I did not delve far into the illusion, as my limbs would feel so weighted that I could not exit my bed, and I slunk back into heavy sleep. I dreamt of people entering and leaving my room, demonstrating all sorts of strange behaviors toward me. For my part, I felt too heavy to respond. I fell into a form of sleep paralysis where my body awakened and tensed all over. My eyelids felt heavy. The lines of my vision blurred. Clarity etched its way into my cornea here and there. I would have shut my eyes but the fluctuation between obfuscation and lucidity felt too interesting. Hallucinations of friends and acquaintances started to float about the room, conducting strange conversations that I could not properly recall. I could recognize that I was hallucinating. I had to pry my eyes open and watch reality mesh incongruously with this odd display of fiction fitted perfectly to my mind by a rebellious subconscious. The hallucinations started to scratch at some very old sores of mine. I grew uncomfortable with the stillness that radiated throughout my body. That stillness felt impure and ugly. It felt complacent. Waves of old buried dirt splashed against my mind, and my body hardly even let me see. I felt perfectly still in a very thick way.

I decided I needed to break this up with reason and reminded my mind that I was still not fully conscious. I told my brain to get back in shape and get the body moving. It took a massive effort. It felt like opening a bottle of wine. I slowly churned the action around the base of my spine until the tingling sensation of opening outward spread down my shoulders. My eyes shot fully open for the first time in what felt like hours. I sat up quickly. Only a good fifteen minutes passed. Twenty minutes sat between my next class and I. Ironically, I felt exhausted and let myself fall asleep again. Luckily my internal clock shot me up properly this time, and I woke up resoundingly ten minutes later, giving me the perfect amount of time to gather my things and get to class. I sat wide eyed in the class glazing over reality, just because it seemed the appropriate thing to do after enduring a bout of sleep paralysis.

I did not really take in much of what anyone said, but that might have been due to the class itself as much as my mentality. I never need strange sleep patterns to justify my boredom in this class. Supposedly the class teaches you how to write. As far as I can tell, it teaches you how to write dried up bits of glossy op-ed pieces that already litter the literary landscape. At best it helps you form up that lifeless academic voice into something a touch more persuasive. I made a few remarks mainly to make my voice heard and seem as though I were thinking actively. I felt underwhelmed at how they hit the class. I don’t know what I expected. I don’t know why I would think anyone would listen closer to me than I listened to them, especially in a class we were all being forced to take. I made a childish determination to feel upset about it and slinked back into my own indulgent and continual self-analysis. Later I’d slap myself mentally for getting so damn uppity and apathetic about the whole thing.

I shuffled out of the class and off to lunch. Still sore from feeling alienated by social interaction, I determined that I would not fall gracefully back into the social scenery. I spent the lunch sitting more silently than normal. I got back to my room with a full stomach and resolve to get out of my pointless funk. Unfortunately, my next class was coming up quick and I could not figure out much to do, so I just sloped up against my bed and let my momentum drain loose.

My girlfriend knocked on the door, getting me up to walk to our shared class, as is our routine. I enjoyed talking with her for a while. I always scrounge for a point when I am with her, though I know I really do not have one. I hardly have anything I want to say that I have not said to her at this point, being friends with her a year before starting up the relationship. Part of the fun was looking for something new to say. I would inspect my life and hers for some question of interest to ask or statement to make. It forced me to look a little closer at things and I enjoyed that element of conversation.
Astronomy class proceeded as normal. Having my girlfriend and a few good buddies in the class speeds things along, and gives me something to do when I get bored. Sometimes I would have to shrug off some interaction to get notes down or finish reading for another class. it did feel a bit rude. Though, that did seem the constant balance of a social life, getting efficiently rude enough to stay unbothered when you needed to without pushing people away.

After astronomy I remember sitting down and doing next to nothing productive. I think I spent a solid two hours browsing the internet uselessly before going out to dinner. After that I did sit down and read for a while until my roommate invited over another good friend and sat down to watch a documentary he told our group about earlier. I guess my own distaste for exclusion due to confusion or lack of effort in people triggered and I started to sort of lightly bitch about how we could get the whole group in if we waited until tomorrow. That was not entirely true, so we did resolve to watch the documentary that night. I still insisted that we try to get as much of the gang in as possible. We wrangled in two more people and had a good time of the viewing.

Watching a documentary on metaphysics of personal careers and reading a heady book about lifeless jobs leaves my head dense and my mouth babbling incessantly to clear some of the clutter. We all talked about dogs and I kept drawing back to my own dog, due to my blundering social incompetence and consistent internal dialogue that often draws me back to putting the conversation’s focus on myself or my own experiences. The group disbanded and I felt quite overburdened with thoughts.

The hot waters of the shower helped me loosen the various strands of crisscrossing thought. I left the shower feeling a bit more at ease. I joined my friends on the floor lounge and played some games for the rest of the night.


I rolled around in my bed for a while. It bothered me that I could not go to sleep immediately like I often did. My mind felt clear. I felt clean and living happily off of leisure time I would lack in the future. Something gnawed at me though, otherwise I would not have rolled around for as long as I did. I would not weave my blanket around me in so many different ways if I were not looking for the right way to lie. I could not tell if I felt physically or mentally uncomfortable. Gradually my fatigue seized me and wrapped me in that coveted wave of sleep. I knew the morning bell would yell out at me the same way the next day. I knew each step hardly removed me from that familiar buzz. It would strike again and again, morning after morning after morning. I wondered if that morning bell was what kept me awake at night. I am probably wrong. The throb that keeps me awake most likely stems from something much more difficult and vastly less interesting.

Some sort of study I heard about vaguely from a friend, who probably heard it from another friend who read an article citing a book that made the full argument, claimed that people start to embody fictional characters they really love. People project that fascinating fiction into their life because those lines of print must give you an electrical and wondrous sort of life. But no matter how close to Gandalf you get, you can’t come into work late and say that you’ve arrived just when you were needed. Not a salesman in the world dies like Willy Loman and if I really wanted to get a good night’s sleep I’d medicate myself and stop worrying about the existential. Maybe some of us do whatever it takes to make it all seem like a book filled with pointed pages.


~Austin R Ryan


Pointless Stories: Sleep in Winter Part 1

Today I woke up at about 7:50 am. The alarm shattered the silent air with beats that seemed concentric. The beeps sped up the longer the alarm stayed on, as a way to keep you from taking that extra five minutes that soon balloons into a half an hour. I sprung out of bed and quickly made my way to the alarm clock. Whenever I near it in the morning the beeps get faster and faster. Though they respond to time, it feels more like space. With each step I get closer to the core of the concentric circles and the sound grows quicker and harsher. The alarm shrieks faster and faster at me, delivering as much of an oration as it can before I silence it. Sometimes my finger slides right of the smooth black surface of the off button without clicking it. My tired frustration compels me to jam the button until the alarm stops arguing. I have my fill of interaction with people and I do not need my machines piping about their concerns.

My roommate, Peter, wakes up too, probably because his alarm won’t arrive much later, and we both have a class in the morning at the same time. I set my alarm ten minutes earlier than usual to beat a strange shower rush that developed in the mornings just recently. I have tenuous mornings, easy to derail. I move too slowly to feel at ease with any routine I set in the morning. My mind does not function as sharply as like either, so I yield to grumpiness, mostly because I feel inadequate in the pressured mornings. I deeply want to slink back into bed to face the day later, but I know that post-sleep I’ll be deprived of full faculties, regardless of quakes in routine. I gather my shower gear slowly. I did not buy a shower caddy this year because frankly the container store does not deserve twenty dollars for a cheap plastic box with a knobby handle. I know the overhead of perforating a cheap chunk of plastic does not warrant the price. I do miss the convenience of the shower caddy. It sucks to drop your soap or have your shampoo bottle break open while walking to the shower.

I get to showering and worrying about the time in one simultaneous and routine motion. I manage just fine, though. I brush my teeth and floss as well, recently deciding to try and force myself into more hygienic habits as I age. I get my stuff and take the stairs down. The elevator is just a quick so long as it goes straight from 5 to 1, but you cannot trust it. If you are in a hurry it’ll likely stop on all four floors along the way just to make your hubris seem Greek. Not to mention, I do not find repressing the desire to chew out the person using the elevator to transcend a flight of stairs to be a fun exercise in patience. If I am not in a hurry and not in a group then I tend not to care if someone uses the elevator to get up or down a flight of stairs. I would consider doing it myself were I them. When I am in a group I get this feeling of shared outrage that I must join in on to indicate I am fully human and not some sanctimonious Buddhist reminding people that frustration should teach us patience. Instead I revel in that emotional connection I create when another person and I judge a stranger in unison. I do not know either person, but at that moment I feel pretty well connected with both on an emotional level. Most people living on the second floor anticipate your reaction when they take the elevator. They either respond in a flash, with something along the lines of “I am sorry, I am just lazy.” They flash you this nervously jovial smile, knowing that one day one person in too much of a hurry to form restraint might start up a real argument with them. That smile prints them all over with guilt. Or maybe it is just a prankster’s nervousness that makes them invincible to anything but silent disparaging. After all, they chose the forthright path, and throughout the day ninety percent of the people you meet will not choose that path. That must be worth something. Otherwise they just stare straight at the elevator door and pretend they did nothing out of the norm. The lack of confrontation might save them from lectures, but one day I cannot help but think a senior rushing to turn in a thesis will plant a welt right in the back of their head.

I took the stairs though, so none of that would happen privy to my sight. I love the stairs for their consistency. They will not disappoint me. Even with my legs feeling worn, I plod down them at a familiar pace. I step outside and feel the slight cold of an all too warm DC November embrace me.

I always make my way to the dining hall to get a bagel and maybe some bacon in the morning. I walk up through the amphitheater. The amphitheater looks like a giant set of grassy steps leading down to a stage. The university maintains the grass perfectly, and even as winter approaches it glimmers green beneath the morning sunlight. Trees tower over the sides of the amphitheater, and a small creek runs a sneaky path along the left side of the large, leafy steps. You can hear its subterfuge if you listen close.

The trees begin to lose their leaves and to me they looked like they’re burning. An orangish red spreads on the outsides of the leaf until it forces them to fall to the earth. The cold weather spreads a burn across most of the foliage, but the campus remains well raked. The leaves speckle the ground, rather than coat it. We run our large brushes through a thicket of green hair, cut to a fine buzz. We foster the growth of massive barky limbs and let it stretch its legs out to touch the sky. Such is the treatment a national arboretum warrants.

My campus is small, but I basically have to cross the spread of it to get to my destination. We tucked the science building off on the north side, far away from the quadrangle and the bustle of activity around it. Only humanities receive such venerated locales.

I get to my economics class after a dull walk on tired legs. It feels long, but it isn’t. It just happens to be the grayest path to follow. Once I leave the neat green array of the amphitheater and quadrangle, I tread along a river of pavement, with towering slabs of concrete ringing me in on the sides. The spots of green are still there, but the campus on the far north side only receives a trickle of people going to and fro. It feels lonely and quiet compared to the bustle found elsewhere.

My economics class goes fine, though I have trouble focusing. My mind generates a few sharp responses to the basic economic principles, which I scrawl in my notes to ask the teacher about later. I can hardly remember them now, but I do remember our discussions centered on the use of patents and the creation of a complicated patent buyout system that would foster innovation and profits simultaneously. For the most part I agree with the lecture. Usually I find economics slanted at justifying itself. Economics traces out a clear path and I love and hate that about it. History’s splintered over the years, and we can no longer agree even on objectivity. But Economics, that young and brash bastard does not seem to give a shit about dissention at all. Sure, when you dive deep, Economists fight bitterly with one another, but no one’s questioning supply and demand, and they’ll all agree to devise sticky wages and frictional unemployment to support the flaws in their more widely agreed upon theories.

Economics always energizes me, but well after the morning’s passed. Walking back to my dorm, usually I can only focus on the nap I am about to indulge in. Of course as time passes I forget the specifics of economics and I regret not processing it right at that moment. The dilemmas of my morning classes are spending my free afternoons forgetting what I learned. I am dead tired walking back. An acquaintance of mine makes a quick interaction, notes that I am tired and lets me off the hook. Walking back through the amphitheater provides a different perspective. The wide steps lead down now, and I quickly clear past the creek whispering to my left and the wide empty stage. My eyes fix themselves against that large concrete structure of a residence hall I live in. It towers over the amphitheater and towers more and more as I slide down the hill of the amphitheater. Once I get back to the elevators, I find them both ascending to the upper floors. On another day, I might just hike up the five flights and fall on my bed. Today my legs will not allow it. The elevators take quite some time to get to the first floor. Each one stops at three floors, and they arrive nearly at the same time. Another person from my floor hops on the elevator and I remark that the elevators raced to the first floor. When I get back to my room I set my alarm for 11 AM. I intend to limit my nap to a half an hour. Any longer, and they say it only makes you sleepier. Recently I can recall all of my nap dreams.

So I napped and I dreamt about some interpersonal interactions in which I was quite the hero. Of course, the tale of a hero ends tragically, and just as the villain winded up to confront me, the whole world shook. The earth became the sky and the sky became the earth and it all faded beneath a concentric beeping. The rings of sound cascading in faster and faster forced that subconscious world of reverie and oddity to lapse back into reality. I stood up, turned the alarm off and then sat back down on the bed. I promised myself that I could shut my eyes for a second and remain upright. I lied to myself and made a perfectly noiseless transition into sleep. I strode right into my subconscious without even noticing. It all blended well.


~Austin R Ryan