Everyone knows that if you sleep more than thirteen hours, you start dreaming fluently in other languages.
It’s not an easy amount to manage. Most people tend to wake after seven hours, though some snooze on in to nine or ten, especially with a few tequilas under their belt. I don’t drink though, so I had the odds against me from the start. The trick is to burrow your feet deep into the blanket, clench your fists tight around your negligee, and hold the fuck on until the dictionary in your dreams opens.
I’m not a good sleeper. I see colours swirling before my eyes and worry I’ll wake up blind. I become convinced I have a heart disorder and won’t wake up at all, that my house will burn down and I’ll be too far down the rabbit hole to smell the smoke.
I’m not an easy person to be around, let me tell you.
When they first gave me the pills and told me the side effects, well, I wasn’t too impressed. Sedation, twitching limbs and weight gain…as if I didn’t have enough to deal with, you know? They told me the pills would knock the anxiety right out of me though, so I swallowed two with my liquorice tea. Truth be told, I barely lasted twenty minutes before the sleep demons took one eyelid in each claw and tugged them closed.
I slept for seventeen hours. It sounds unpleasant, but in all honesty it wasn’t. And when I woke, I had German on my lips.
It came out as I was brushing my teeth. I had the toothbrush jammed up near my left wisdom when I suddenly took it out of my mouth, stared at myself in the mirror, and said Zuckerschnecke. I said it twice, I was so surprised. My hair was standing up at crazy morning angles and one curl was hanging over my left eye, mid-bounce, as if to say “What the fuck was THAT?”
I didn’t know. I slowly spat the toothpaste into the sink. I washed out my mouth, patted it with a scratchy towel, and went looking for a pen.
Zuckerschnecke, it seems, means Sugar Snail, a German term of endearment to call your loved one. I didn’t remember a single snippet from my dreams, nothing. But apparently someone had loved me, patted me on the head and purred that I was their sugar snail.
The idea wasn’t entirely disagreeable.
I took three pills the next night. Sleep took hold of my feet and dragged me down for fourteen hours. It meant I had no time to wash the dog, but I didn’t complain. I didn’t count my heartbeats either and wait for them to skip; didn’t look for the cracks in the ceiling and see ferocious creatures. But I did head to Korea, eat some Bindaetteok washed down with soju, and wake humming the chorus of a Korean pop song that was, I have to say, pretty damn catchy.
I’ve heard that after a knock to the head, you can suddenly develop Foreign Language Syndrome. A man in Wisconsin fell off his horse and was knocked unconscious; on waking, he suddenly spoke with a Russian accent, even though he’d never been to Russia. I mean, really, how curious. A woman in Tasmania bumped her forehead on a kitchen cupboard and for three months, spoke in a thick Swedish accent. I like to think of what the townspeople thought when she went to buy her apples and onions, sounding like the chef from the Muppets. And then suddenly, it stopped. Just like that.
I wonder if she missed it; if she were honest with herself, that she hadn’t felt just that little bit special for a while.
And apparently when George Michael fell seriously ill with pneumonia, he woke from his coma with an accent completely dissimilar to his own. I don’t know if I should count him though, because he’s always been a bit dubious, in my opinion.
But in all honesty, I like getting ready for bed, my movements slow from the pills like I’m wading through sand, not knowing where the night will take me. Once, I danced the samba on a river bank in Brazil and counted the steps in joyous Portuguese, my hands raised to the sunset with fingers splayed open. Last night, I whispered a Thai nursery rhyme into a small child’s ear as the rain fell. When I woke, the sheet was wrapped around my waist like a Jakgree.
I’m a bit sad that I’m no longer anyone’s sugar snail, but really, I’ve already known that once, and I’m not a greedy woman.
Reading Kafka again. And drinking white wine. That’s a dangerous combination.