I wake up. It’s dark, middle of the night, Em’s sound asleep before me. Night falls and morning breaks quick as a flash in this country so there’s no telling how late it is, could be anywhere between 10pm, when I closed my eyes, and 6:30am when the sun usually bounces back into place. I reach over and check my phone.
Just after midnight. Fuck.
I close my eyes and try to get back to sleep but it’s already too late – my mind has noticed what’s going on and is already going through the motions of waking up. I can feel my heartrate increasing and try to slow it down through some breathing exercises but the ever-swelling river of thoughts now flowing through my brain throws my concentration off track every time.
What am I going to teach tomorrow?
Can I get that grammar book finished?
How much money will I really be able to save?
Should I sell my flat back home?
How can I sell my flat back home when I’m here?
What was that noise?
Was that someone in the house?
What would I do if someone broke into the room?
Who’d win if zombies invaded a castle full of vampires?
There’s no stopping it once it starts, at least not consciously. I try to count sheep (it used to work, years ago), I try to think of just darkness, removing any stimulation from my head, I try to think of nothing. It works for a minute or so.
Then the thoughts come back like a dam bursting. Just a trickle at first (How can you really think of nothing? Is nothing something?) then the raging torrent (Was Buddha on to something? What will Korea be like? Kick Ass was awesome, wasn’t it?).
Even when there’s some respite from my mind there’s always something outside to keep me from dropping off again.
CHIRPCHIRPCHIRPCHIRPCHIRPCHIRPCHIRP (repeat for hours)
Thailand’s no place for the insomniac. The combined noise from traffic, insects, lizards, fans and late-night shouted conversations can vary from nuisance to utterly intolerable, to the point where I hide under the pillow with fingers in my ears.
I check the clock every hour or so, almost on the dot by some uncanny coincidence. Tick-tock, tick-tock, no sleep, just endless seconds of staring at the ceiling or the insides of my eyelids.
Eventually I hear Em’s alarm going off – not a good sign.
“What time is it?”, I mumble
Fuck, fuck and thrice fuck.
That was this morning. I’ve now been awake almost eleven hours and it’s almost time for the first of my four classes. Plan was to knock myself out with some Temazepan I keep in reserve as soon as I got finished but now I have to cover two science classes first thing tomorrow and can’t afford to be pill-groggy. But by the same token I can’t afford to be doubly sleep-deprived.
I don’t believe in gods but I do believe in hell.
It’s also known as insomnia.