Tuesday, August 12, 2008

with the devil in the woods

I've been trying to teach myself to sleep again; I seem to have lost the knack. I get tired, but when I lie down my eyes don't close. I practice breathing: in for four, out for four, hold out for two. It works like a charm, but only if you remember to do it, and keep doing it. My mind tends to skip off like a stone. I have a lot to think about.

One day a while ago, I get a text from the Satanist. "Want to go for a walk?" Sounds fun, so I bike over to his house in the late afternoon. I think we'll stroll around the block a couple of times and call it a night, but he's got these graphite walking sticks and headlamps and we are going for a Walk.

We cut through the neighborhood a long way, and onto the municipal hiking trail and across the river. We get into the trees and the sun goes down and it is quite dark. I don't remember what we talk about. My mind keeps wandering and I am probably not saying much, but I'm having a nice time. It comes out of the blue when the Satanist tells me he fantasizes about fucking me in front of my boyfriend. He says it so casually it takes me a second to think about it, and then I say, "Yuck."



I want this line of conversation to end, and I don't want to return to it. I don't want to be riding the brakes on sexual tension all evening, and especially not out here in the dark, in the woods. I'm not scared, but it sounds like hard work, and if I'm going to work I want to get paid.

Everything changes after this and it keeps getting darker, because that's what happens at night.

"Where are we?" he asks, after a while.


"You were leading."

"I was?"

"I'm following you."


So now we are lost, but I can still see the lights from downtown and we keep heading towards them. We cross a bridge to the right side of the river again, but once we're on the bank nothing looks right. We're by a busy road that I ought to know but I don't see any signs, and I could swear there was no road here. I must have been here in the daylight a thousand times, but it doesn't feel like it. To my right I see downtown, closer and brighter than before. So that's good. To my left I see a stretch of dark highway and lights and cars that could be anywhere, any city, any time. The Satanist points left. "This way," he says.

When I look left I don't know where I am. I feel dizzy, like the sky is pressing down on the top of my head and my knees are going soft. I point to the right, towards beautiful, glowing, comforting downtown. Once we get there there'll be other people and all the streets will have names. We'll know exactly where we are and his house is just a stone's throw away. We'll say goodbye on his front porch and I'll get on my bike and ride home and everything will be OK. "This way," I say.

He grabs my hand. I pull back. We look at each other the best we can. It is dark now, completely dark, and the only lights are cars on the road zooming past, too bright and then gone again. "You're being weird," he says. "You've been somewhere else all night."

I start to nod. This is true. I've been somewhere else for weeks, actually. But he's not done. He's raising his voice, and this is the first time I realize that we are actually fighting.

"You're in fucking space and I don't even want to be around you right now but I can't get away from you."

I feel a sweet relief. If what we both want is to get away from each other then it's easy. I point back to the right again. "I'll go that way."

"Fine," he says. "Give me my shit." He snatches the walking stick out of my hand, and the lamp. He's angry and rough and it's the first time I really feel scared of him. I feel like a big dog just snarled at me. I'm glad I'm going my way, not further into the dark with him. I turn around and don't look back.

That was weeks ago. We haven't talked again, and I don't know if we will. I don't think about it much. I have a lot on my mind. I still can't sleep.


Anonymous said...

I've tried that counting thing, but it doesn't work.

Chronic insomniac since high school. Tried everything.

Now what works is no or only a little caffeine during the day, at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, no sugar or heavy processed foods at night.

When I really can't sleep, I concoct a scenario - trip/travel in my mind, very detailed. I'm usually asleep in minutes:

I'm walking down a road in the country. The sun is beating down on my head. I hear birds and bugs quietly in the distance. To my right and left are rails bordering fields that go off for miles on all sides. Off in the distance are rolling hills and even further, the beginnings of a forest...(you can make up the rest as you need to). It always works!

Good luck sleeping

TomboCheck said...

Beautifully written. Hope you get to sleep soon.

Fredicvs Maximvs said...

I remember having trouble sleeping when I was younger. All kinds of things worrying me. My Mom told me to write it all down. Make a list of all the things that are buzzing through your head. That way your brain isn't worried about trying to hold on to all the things you need to remember for tomorrow. It's all safely down on paper, and your brain can relax.

It's worth a try, anyway. I hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Late at night, when my brain is racing and I can't find the brakes, I have to think of a blank piece of paper. Really study it, the whiteness, the crisp surface, the unblemished void.

Barb M said...

Dude, that was creepy. Glad you got away from that. I was worried. And now, for sleep. In Canada we have this stuff called Sleepy Time Tea. It's a mixture of camamile and peppermint. It's great. Drink a cup before bed. And I also have a little mantra I say to myself every night to drift me off. Actually two. There is the easy one, "Hum sa" which is sanscrit for... something I can't remember, but it's easy. And the other is "Ome na ma shi vaya" which is likely spelled very wrong but it means I thank you for the divinity that resides within me. It helps me out. Or there's always the warm milk with a touch of nutmeg. Hope something helps.

Anonymous said...

"unblemished void"? WTF? I think my reach exceeded my grasp on that last bit. I guess my tired brain felt the need for a third clause there and failed when searching for adverbs. From now on I'll leave the writing to you.

Anonymous said...

i've been an insomniac since i was a little kid, and this is the only thing that ever works...

get comfortable and close your eyes... then, starting with your toes and working your way up toward your head, visualize each part of your body and mentally tell it to go to sleep - it works best if you break yourself down into smaller pieces (ie. saying each portion of your foot instead of just 'foot'.) if you move at all or if your mid wanders elsewhere, start back over with your toes.

hope that made sense?

get some rest.

Anonymous said...

Good job escaping. :)

JP said...

I like the metaphor of this story. People who you meet in a strip club often try to lead you into the dark, in many different ways, because that's where they are.

Often you are in the dark yourself...the blind unintentionally leading the blind.

Boomer said...

Nicely put. I too struggle with sleep and it gets worse the older I get. I've tried it all (sleep centers, pills, exercise) and counting works the best for me too. Good luck with the sleeping.

Frank said...

Great one. I really love how as a reader, you lose your sense of physical space halfway through the story. You are lost with the people in the story, too.

I don't know if this really happened or not, but it's well written. I only question whether or not it happened because there's some really great environment/location based recall early on and then all of a sudden, after the "fuck" comment, all grasp of physical space goes out the window. Granted, someone could become disoriented in such a situation.

Either way, great writing as usual.

And if you really are having trouble sleeping, I wish you luck. I couldn't sleep in college. Too much thinking. Sex and exercise help me conk out. Also, peace. In myself, of course, not in the world. You really have to believe in that old saying about doing what you can about what you can and leaving the rest of it to the math of the universe. Or you can masturbate. (shrugs)

Anonymous said...

Whenever I try to sleep, my mind immediately defaults to every embarrassing thing I've ever done in my life, which tends to keep me awake (and ashamed).

Listening to This American Life podcasts (you can find them on thislife.org) usually does the trick. They're interesting, so they keep my brain distracted from the fact that I'm trying to sleep. By the time it's figured out what's going on, I'm out cold.

I don't know if it will work for you, but it's very effective for me.

Avalon said...

i have found that yoga child's pose helps me to sleep better because it regulates the cortisol levels in your brain. When you're stressed, you have a lot of cortisol which leads to insomnia.

Anonymous said...

People don't usually get angry unless they're afraid of something. I really wonder what he had to be afraid of in this situation?

It doesn't exactly make sense, that "but I can't get away from you", does it?

He can do what he did, walk away. He doesn't have to call you, or have aye to do with you any more if he doesn't want to. He doesn't even have to avoid the bar you're no longer working in.

There will be more to this, I think.

cosmiccowgirl said...

I think what he might be afraid of is change, and desertion. You have been slowing "mutating" over the past year since I started reading this, building to a crescendo when you stopped stripping, but relationships are built on the hope that the person won't change, or at least not so far away from who they were at first. When he brings up the fantasy, it is an attempt to put you back in that frame he saw you in, but you aren't there anymore, just like your thoughts that night weren't truly there. It was a test, and your response showed to him that in fact you were not in that same place he held you in. Hence the anger. Even though you never intended to, "you" deserted him figuratively by this slow process of change, and the physical parting of ways was representative of the shift in your friendship. It is not fair to you, really, because it seems you are changing for the better, and in a way you aren't done "mutating, you are still sifting through what it all means and now you need friendship more than ever, especially from people who know where you "came from". However, you don't need to be trapped in your past, either, and should be free to grow as a person in the eyes of those who care about you. It is all human nature. He might sort through his emotions and figure out this out on his own, or maybe not, and his friendship with you will adapt to your changes, or not. Who knows what will happen. He will have to adjust the way he sees you to maintain the friendship, and eventually you will figure out where all this growing/changing is going to. That, I think, is part of the reason you can't sleep well. Just let your subconscious continue to battle it out. I would not recommend making lists like someone said, because that increases anxiety and gets your mind to focus on issues and actually creates more insomnia. Whatever the fix, I am sure you will figure it out. The cure is different for everyone. In my case, my struggle with insomnia ends with food fantasies. I pretend I am at an "ultimate buffet" and start thinking of what I would choose for my buffet, and it puts me to sleep within five minutes, always. But to each his own.
I hope your friendship comes back, but you know, some never do. Best of luck.

Me said...

I used to have problems sleeping since I was young, a cup of tea sometimes helps, and at least is natural. After my divorce, I sleep like a baby.
That guy freak me out.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me he didn't appreciate the word yuck.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I read your blog occasionally because I live in the same town as you, and I'm also a sex worker (I also have a blog, but I left this comment anonymously, as I don't want people figuring out where I live). I love your writing - it's so melancholy and beautiful. Exactly my favourite kind. It's what I would write if only I hadn't semi-outed myself and ruined my anonymity. I find it hard to write such literary masterpieces as you do when people know too much personal information about me. I don't know why.

I wish I knew who you were so we could meet. I wonder if we would like each other....? Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

the sleepytime tea i get here has chamomile and valerian root. it's not a cure-all but it helps turn up the drowsiness again.

losing the satanist doesnt seem like much of a loss, if you ask me. friends dont make you feel scared, ever.

Sylvie said...

When I have trouble sleeping, it's because I can't make my brain shut up. I do something like Jes does, but I consciously tense then relax each muscle group starting with the toes. Sometimes I think about/focus on pleasant physical sensations, like the feeling of my smooth, cool sheets on my bare skin.
You might try a longer, slower exhalation - that can shift your blood oxygen levels and help quiet the mind. I breathe in 3, hold 1, out 6.