Insomnia: In Which: Dwanollah (Immersed in Yet
Another Semester of her Summer Lit. Program) Confronts Dreams,
Demons, and Deepest Fears… Despite Desperate Desire
The battle usually begins – depending on if I’ve
slipped into an Inadvertent Nap ‘round 2 o’clock
in the afternoon or not – about 8:30ish. Without fail,
I am ensconced in my dorm room, fan on high, glitter-lamp
swirling, hunkered over whatever books/critical articles/papers/notes
are on the agenda for tomorrow’s classes and/or projects.
I study doggedly, working until I can’t keep my eyelids
from hanging like broken window-blinds. At last. Bleary, muddle-headed,
I can go to bed. I’ll be able to sleep. This time, for
10:30 Since I’m usually already decked
out in my comfiest t-shirt (This year’s favorite? “My
Barbies Are Lesbians”) and pj bottoms, all I have to
do is slide cozily under my pink chenille bedspread and nestle
back onto my extra-firm pillow and sleep. Sheets are cool.
Ah. Good. Lights out.
10:31 Arrange two pillows just so. Without
The Husband-Type Man to cuddle next to, one pillow must be
placed on “his” side of the bed to roll against.
Sling arm over pillow. Close eyes.
10:33 Forgot to take Zoloft. Swallow Little
Blue Pill of Much Salvation. Spill bottle. Turn light back
on, clean up scattered pills, cap bottle tightly.
10:34 Turn light back out.
10:35 Re-arrange two pillows. Commence deep
10:36 Start thinking about Pinocchio, three
chapters of which remain unread – okay, I admit, unskimmed
– for tomorrow morning’s class. Had planned on
getting up at 7 to finish. Decide that’s not good enough.
Turn on light. Reset alarm for 6 instead.
10:39 Isn’t it irresponsible, and
perhaps Bad Scholastic Karma, to leave such work to the last
minute? Won’t everyone in class know I’m a Bad
10:40 This is why I didn’t get into
a Ph.D. program, isn’t it? They heard I procrastinate.
They send memos about me and my shoddy academic habits from
one learning institution to another, don’t they?
10:45 Fuck it. I’ll read for a few
minutes until I settle down.
10:46 Turn on light again. Re-arrange pillows
to prop self up. Pick up heavy, critical edition of Le Avventure
di Pinocchio, and commence reading translated portion of text.
10:49 Have question about Italian idiom.
Get up and rummage around desk for Italian & English dictionary.
10:51 Discover that the phrase that equates
to the English “not know which way to turn” is
literally translated in Italian as “not know which fish
to catch” or “non sapere che pesci pigliare.”
Interestingly enough, “pigliare” means both “to
catch” and “to make a mistake,” so when
a fisherman catches Pinocchio in a next and mistakes him for
a crab, it’s a hilarious literal play on the idiom-
Okay, so, trust me, it’s very Deep and Meaningful when
in the throes of exhaustion.
11:08 Nodding off over book. Mark new place.
Throw on floor. Turn out light.
11:09 Re-arrange pillows. Flop on left side.
11:11 Bug bite on foot. Scratch.
11:12 Scratch again.
11:13 Sit up and scratch foot violently.
11:14 Roll onto right side.
11:14: 30 sec Too hot. Kick left leg out
from under blanket. Better.
11:16 Damned bug bite!
11:18 Wait! Don’t I have to read an
essay on Kenneth Grahame and The Pastoral in Children’s
11:18, 23 sec No, no, the essay’s
for my other class.
11:18, 27 sec Isn’t it?
11:18, 32 sec What class do I even HAVE
11:18: 40 sec Turn on light. Rummage in
bag. Find folders. Check syllabi. Okay, essay is for Boys’
Lit, day after tomorrow. Tomorrow is my class in The Fantastic
in Children’s Lit. Replace folders. Turn light back
11:20 Re-arrange pillows.
11:21 What the HELL am I going to do for
my class presentation project for The Fantastic in Children’s
Lit?! Why did I even TAKE this class!? I don’t read
fantasy! I don’t KNOW fantasy! I know I was thinking
about examining the fantastic allusions in Mary Downing Hahn’s
The Wind Blows Backward, to see how framing the story as a
fantastic tale, rather than a realistic problem novel, might
alter things, might make Lauren’s patheticness appear
somehow heroic or put a different spin on what I perceive
as gross sexism or something, but for Gawd’s sake, everyone
else is doing all this in-depth stuff on “the faces
of evil as portrayed in fantasy picture books” or “time-travel
as a coming-of-age motif in YA adventure novels”!
11:23 WHY HAVEN’T I STARTED HARDCORE
RESEARCH ON THIS PAPER AND PROJECT?! Never mind that the books
I need aren’t here yet! I’m gonna have maybe four
full days to pull it together! I don’t know what I’m
11:24 Oh, God, what if I fail this class?
Can I get an extension or an incomplete instead?
11:25 I simply can NOT think about a paper
right now! I have to sleep! The alarm is going off in six-and-a-half
hours! I’m barely going to be able to function as it
11:26 Chewing on cuticles commences.
11:28 Chewing on cuticles ceases when, upon
tearing out cuticle with teeth, finger starts stinging and
begins to bleed.
11:29 Roll back to left side. Cuddle up
next to Husband-Placement Pillow. Pillow is nowhere NEAR as
satisfying as THTM’s Rumpus, Back and Shoulderly Region.
11:30 Wonder what THTM is doing right now.
Picture him futzing in his office, sprawled on the couch eating
one of his Grody Snack Food Combinations. Remember the time
he put pink and blue cake icing on stale marshmallows for
a nighttime snack. Snicker. Marvel at his inherent weirdness.
11:31 Think about THTM’s shoulder.
Like to kiss it when cuddled up against his back. His skin
11:32 Think about how, every night, THTM
clasps my hand in his and squeezes my fingers when he’s
11:33 And nestles his feet against mine.
11:33: 40 sec I really hate not sleeping
with THTM. Snuggle face into pillow, trying to approximate
level of coziness that is THTM in Bed.
11:34 Half-smile. Thinking about THTM’s
Crooked Nose. And the divot in his chin. I like to tease him
that someone didn’t replace the turf when they teed
off on his chin. Try not to think about how long it’s
been since I got to kiss that ticklish spot on his neck.
11:35 Begin feeling truly pathetic, in earnest.
Missing THTM so much. Want to tickle him and wonky his hair.
11:36 Count days and hours until he comes
to visit me for my birthday weekend. Decide that, due to Bad
Karma from not studying enough, and therefore not being a
Worthy Person, THTM is in danger of dying in a plane crash
on his way to visit.
11:37 Feeling incredibly, increasingly superstitious
and irrational. Begin counting up my Bad Deeds and all the
many ways in which I Suck as a human being, because this will
surely affect THTM’s travel.
11:38 Thought of losing THTM is horrific.
Tear plunks on pillow. Then another.
11:39 Realize, and not for the first time,
that I am prolly only one crucial step away from Obsessive-Compulsive.
Or Professional Victim. Or some other horrific Manifestation
of pop-psychology/talk-show mentality/overly-medicated American
Society. Good Gawd.
11:39: 35 sec Feel horrifically guilty about
bottle of Zoloft on nightstand. Remember medical allergy that
kicked off panic attacks almost 10 years ago. Try to convince
self that am NOT a Dr. Phil loving, Melody Beattie reading,
Dr. Laura-listening, non-critical thinking weak-willed little-girl-woman.
11:40 I mean, if I’m going to worry
about anything, maybe I should worry about the fact that I
have to do two papers and two projects in about three weeks’
11:41 And the deadline for the Francelia
Butler Conference is, like, next fucking week. And I have
no idea what to submit!
11:42 Yeah, there’s the Independent
Study that I’m working on, for the critical book I’m
writing, but maybe I can’t use an Independent Study
11:43 I wrote a paper on Künstlerroman
issues in Norma Klein books last summer. That’s eligible
for the conference. It’s about how coming of age sexually
for Klein’s artist characters is linked to coming of
age artistically. It’s not a superlative paper, but
it’s okay. And it’s a pretty untapped critical
area. I should just submit that.
11:44 But if I can pull together this paper
on Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess and displaced
monarchy and active versus passive heroes from a gendered
perspective in Victorian fiction for my Boys’ Lit class,
that’d be a LOT better, wouldn’t it?
11:46 I’ll want to emphasize the Victorian
convention of inherent nobility, of course. Burnett’s
implication was, in part, that certain people are “more
fit” to be princes/princesses/little lords because of
their “inherent nobility,” not solely their social
class, birth status, and that sort of thing.
11:47 Hey! Mark Twain was saying the same
thing in The Prince and the Pauper, too, wasn’t he?
Could I do something on Cedric and Tom and Edward…?
11:48 Turn on light. Reach for pencil and
notebook on nightstand. Write cryptic notes to myself before
everything is forgotten. Begin to rough an outline. Put strategically-placed
scribbled stars next to a few points, for tomorrow’s
trip to the library. Almost wish the library was open all
night, like at some large universities. Not like I can sleep
12:03 Turn out light. Fix pillows.
12:04 Realize that I will never, ever get
this paper done in time for the Franny Butler submission deadline
on Friday. Decide not to submit anything this year. Less pressure.
12:05 I mean, I won the Franny Butler last
summer! Wasn’t that good enough?
12:06 Unless I’m afraid I can’t
do it again. Because I suck.
12:07 Am I coping out? Don’t I owe
it to myself – and to Elizabeth, my mentor and advisor
– to participate?
12:07: 17 sec After all, why else did I
apply to this program?
12:07: 19 sec My vita needs all the help
it can get.
12:07: 22 sec No wonder I didn’t get
into any Ph.D. programs. Again.
12:08 But my paper from the Butler conference
actually got PUBLISHED and broke new critical ground for Alcott
AND Montgomery studies, and it was rushed into the best critical
journal for Montgomery studies in academia!
12:08: 12 sec Of course, there are only
about seven people, myself included, in academia, who care
about Montgomery studies. Obviously. The article didn’t
get me into any Ph.D. programs, did it?
12:09 Surely a round of Compulsive Eating
will help this situation.
12:09: 30 sec No wonder I’m such a
fat fucking slob.
12:10 Fat and stupid and lazy. I rule. *sigh*
How many of the Seven Deadly Sins can be squeezed into one
putting-the-“erotic”-in-neurotic sardonic bitch?
12: 11 Turn on light. Get up. Trip over
book. Make way to Standard Dorm Room Mini-fridge. Make a peanut
butter sandwich and pour a glass of milk. Read another few
pages of Pinocchio while eating.
12: 17 Make another half-sandwich from heel
of bread loaf.
12:20 Eye bottle of Unisom. Know that if
I take one now, I’ll never be able to wake myself up
fully for class tomorrow, much less at six in the freaking
12: 23 Fwap blanket to straighten it out.
Smooth sheet. Re-arrange pillows. Turn out light and get into
12:24 Close eyes. Try to use old time-worn
cure for insomnia, and picture self sleeping in most relaxing
setting. Mmmm… deserted beach, not unlike the Playa
del Amor, where we played for a long afternoon when we were
in Cabo San Lucas once.
12:25 Smell of salt water. Rushing, muted
crash of waves. Floating in warm water, rocked by the motion
of the sea…
12:26 Not quite sure how I’ve ended
up thinking about needing to finish that one Jack Zipes book
12:27 Motion of sea. Yes. Sun baking down,
breeze cool. Mmmmm….
12:32 Realize that brain is trying to analyze
the homoerotic subtexts in The Wind in The Willows, but keeps
substituting Brady Bunch characters for Mole and Rat and Toad
instead because am almost half-asleep. Of course, upon realizing
this, am no longer almost half-asleep.
12:39 *roll* and *mumble*
12: 56“…my paper on Frances
Hodgson Burnett. Burnett’s characters, like Tom Canty
and Norma Klein, have had a profound influence-” “I’m
not being rude, but,” Simon Cowell interrupts me, “Norma
Klein and Tom Canty aren’t Burnett characters. You have
absolutely no idea what you’re talking about!”
“I’m sorry, I actually thought she was a scholar,”
Elizabeth, my mentor and favorite instructor (but she looks
like my mom instead of like herself), tells him. Onstage,
I blink and try not to cry. I look down and realize that,
instead of the suit I usually wear at conferences, I’m
dressed in a tropical-print muu muu. If I can just get off-stage!
If I can just get out of here, I’ll be okay! I take
a few steps to the side, but, shit! I didn’t realize
there were stairs here! I trip, and am falling… falling…
1:08 With a *jump* and *startle*, I “land”
on my bed. Good freaking fuck.
1:10 I give up. I surrender. There’s
no way I can sleep now. Freakin’ A.
1:11 Turn on computer. Yeah. I knew there
was a reason why I brought The Sims with me…. And tomorrow
(well, more like today) is anothah day… and hopefully
will allow time for a nice, long nap….