Complicates/Compliments

I became curiously obsessed with sleep when I was in Brazil. That’s not exactly right; I actually became weirdly obsessed with the idea of the room I was in when I was asleep — what that physical space would be like, with me in it but not awake.

For some reason that I can’t put my finger on (but may, in all seriousness, have something to do with sleep-deprivation, ironically; I don’t think I slept longer than seven hours a night while I was there, and for the first few days of the trip, I think five hours was my limit), I started imagining the hotel room I’d been staying in, with me in bed, comatose. It became this strange existential idea, as if when I was asleep, I wasn’t actually me and there was this empty me-shaped shell in this hotel room, which was otherwise empty and devoid of life.

That idea stuck in my head for a couple of days; the image of a me asleep in that hotel room and the idea that, when I was asleep, my body was some other thing, not actually me. Both were new thoughts, although at least one ranges back to my teenage self, when I’d fall asleep and feel as if — when that was happening — the real me was shrinking and curling up inside my body, which was some kind of shell instead of actually being me.

At some point in thinking about this over and over, the thought struck me that what I was actually concerned about was the idea that, in Brazil, I was sleeping alone. If I had been with someone, the unexpected train of thought went, then their presence would have meant that I stayed “me” and didn’t abandon my body, as if the whole thing was a bizarre version of the “If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there, does it make a sound” thought experiment.

Perhaps this all came from anxiety of sleeping alone in an unfamiliar place, or missing Chloe; perhaps it was just the specter of a mind that needed more rest and instead turned in upon itself to try and turn the very concept of sleep into an existential crisis. (There’s no reason it couldn’t be both, of course.) All I know is, when I landed back in Portland, I began to think about sleeping easier, for all manner of reasons.

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