The Elusive

Written by Amy Behrens


There are many things in life that seem to escape me in one way or another. Sleep, the most elusive of them all, flees from me tonight. This seems to be nothing out of the ordinary as it happens almost every night.   

My children are tucked away in their dreams, the house is clean, my face is washed, and the cat is fed. The day is at its end, and it is time for sleep at last.  I lay in my freshly made queen size bed, next to my just fallen asleep partner. I stretch and descend under the covers anticipating the heavyweight of drowsiness to settle in as well. I wait for the familiar sting in my eyes, and the deep breath that seem to make me indifferent to all but my pillow. I wait and wait for the lethargic state. With eyes closed my mind begins to wander.  

I always seem to think of the fanciful things first. The endless things I would do if I were to win the lottery. I would give, give, give to everyone who needed. I would build grand human service institutes. I would ensure my children’s bright futures. I would hire a personal trainer and finally lose all my extra weight. Maybe I would even embrace a new bosom long lost after bearing children. I would start my own restaurant, magazine, and art store. I can’t forget to buy that tropical vacation house in the Caribbean.  

Ahh! The Caribbean, the blue waters, and the palm trees. The exotic women, and playboy men, nonstop beaches, and the soothing sound of the ocean. I can hear the waves crashing down onto the shore, and I wiggle my toes imagining them in the sand.  

All these thoughts flirt for acknowledgement as my want for sleep continues. It is humorous how the elusive things in life come to mind first when sleep is also out of grasp.  

Once I have explored the most unlikely dreams in my mind, I decide to concentrate on nothing at all. All is well for the first few minutes in my not as tidy queen size bed with my now loudly snoring partner.  

I find it most difficult to think of nothing at all though when I try to force myself to think of nothing at all. How strange it all seems under the influence of insomnia. As I continue to try and think of nothing at all, which in my mind is a black blanket wrapped over my thoughts. I hear an echoing voice inside my head telling me to stay grounded. I start to envision my mother.  

She is transparent in a fish-eye lens distortion, one hand on her hip as her figure is fading in and out. She wags her finger towards me in a ‘You better listen’ stance and gesture. She continues scolding me, telling how dreams of grandeur will get me nowhere at all, and I need to keep my head out of the clouds with my feet firmly planted on the ground. Trying to bring back into focus the black abyss overlaying all my thoughts, the darkness begins to fade, as does the image of my mother.  

In the depths of the void I see an elongated me with my feet planted firmly on the ground, and my head way up in the sky where the clouds would be if it were not such a sunny clear day.  I walk over the valleys of green meadows and gurgling, bubbling, splashing little streams and brooks. A few steps and I have covered the whole valley and am now attempting to climb over the large mountain in front of me. I place my hand on the peak and look back towards the valley.  

I feel a smugness warming me as I have bested my mother by doing as I please and what she wanted all at the same time. I fight the smile spreading across my face. The battle proves pointless as a quieted laugh overcomes me. Of course, this silly exaggeration remains only a moment as my mind quickly changes the scenes and directions.  

Now I am thinking of love and life in a deeper sense. I think of my dreams, wondering if I am following a pointless worn pathway beaten down by those before me or making my very own.  I wonder how the middle road works in that scenario? Can I follow my own path while being aware and mindful of the other path already smoothed out and flattened by all those before me?  I think I might be destined to always get lost and search out the hardest way from Point A to Point B. I see the tangled thorns and branches grabbing out at my skin and unconsciously scratch at my arm in frustration.  

I accept my determination is sometimes a hindrance, kind of like all of these thoughts keeping me from sleep. Could I ever be happy traveling solely on that paved road so many follow? The tangled path clears, and I see this busy highway with people jammed in like sardines, moving slowly, steadily forward.  

The road curves up and turns into a bridge. I see the people falling off the bridge where it abruptly ends into a large bucket. The bucket turns over, and they fall into molds, where a press comes and smushes them all into place, to fill every nook and cranny. HA! I point in exclamation. “We don’t need no education! We don’t need no thought control!” DAMN! Pink Floyd has leaked into my brain.  

I steer my thoughts elsewhere, unless the entire night is to be lost in the never-ending playlist in my head while I desperately yearn for sleep.  I roll over towards my partner, pushing my foot out from under the covers.  

My partner’s snores stop, almost in a hiccup-like breath. And he rolls over on his side. Am I really in love? Will I marry my partner? These thoughts are fleeting. Thinking about marriage in a half drowsy awareness may lead to a fugue state.  

I turn my inner dialogue to my everyday concerns. Will my oldest son get over this extreme behavior he is going through? Will I be able to drive more than an hour with my youngest son not screaming the entire way? Will I ever feel accomplished as a mother, an artist, or writer? Will I ever find a job I love? Will my cat ever stop biting my toes? WHAT?! Stupid cat, I thought I threw her out of the room already.  

Sigh! So many questions, so many thoughts assaulting me. I am no longer thinking in images. All that occupies my head are the unheard voices battling over every aspect in my current life. Thoughts are racing through my mind so fast. My legs are getting tense and jumpy, and my heart is beating faster. I cannot seem to get the pillow in the right place.  

Can I just turn my head a certain way and let all of these THINGS fall out of my head so I can go to sleep?! I can feel the frustration build to an intolerable level. My bed is in shambles with my partner not as asleep as he would like. I begin to question why god would curse us with the ability of self-reflection. As my fevered thoughts go plundering through my want-to-be slumber lands, I feel the gates of the dam begin to give way.  

Just as the rushes of turmoiled thoughts are about to pour out inside my head, my youngest son begins to cry. I am snapped back into the now with a jolt upwards in his direction. As I walk to his crib, I wonder if maybe I was thinking too loud, or if he was having troublesome dreams as well. I pick him up and hold him close to my chest. Rubbing his neck and back as we lay down together in my completely disarrayed bed with his now awakened father.  

As his crying subsides, there is a feeling of contentment. Finally, the deep breath that makes me one with the tangle of sheets in my bed, the sleepy sting of familiarity in my eyes, and the blessed heaviness of being drowsy overcomes me. With my youngest son in my arms, my bed a mangled mess, and my partner holding us both, I melt into peaceful dreams.