If you ever need another subtle reminder of how insignificant you are in the scope of things, try flying overseas to a country with a fourteen hour time zone difference, realizing you have exactly one day to get over that jet lag before you head back to school and start homework, sitting in front of your laptop until it’s so late you feel like you’re the last person alive, perceiving the night dissolve into day as pale gold slinks through windows and the sounds of vendors opening shop peppers the air—a process completely indifferent to the fact that you’re still just sitting there in front of your laptop, not having moved an inch, because the world waits for no one.
Or you could try going out to look at the stars for the same effect, I guess. Whichever’s easier.
The day I decided to preemptively fix my sleep schedule, I slept from 3-11AM (1-9PM at home). Exhausted from a scant eight hours, I went back to bed 5-8PM (3-6AM) and pulled a pseudo-all-nighter so I could start sleeping from 2-10PM (12-8 AM). Instead, I proceeded to only sleep in exact three-hour intervals.
It’s strange to me that I have to put so much thought into sleeping, not because I’m a college student but because the last time I put thought into anything this winter break was when Mom noticed an empty hanger on the clothesline.
The clothesline is in the yard of my grandparents’ house, where my mom and I have been staying this month. The yard is out front and blurs the line between public and private property to the extent that random people keep attempting to park their cars in it. Its easy accessibility, along with Mom’s certainty that she’d attached a shirt to each hanger, was enough to convince me that we were dealing with a shirt thief.
Mom and I jump to this conclusion—thieves—whenever we can’t find anything, and we often have occasion to because we misplace items all the time. My track record of eventually finding what I’m looking for is slightly better, and I would be prouder of this if not for the fact that my mom is a century (exactly 100 years) older than I am.
[THE CASE OF THE VANISHED SHIRT, SCENE 1]
Mom: *brandishes empty hanger* My shirt’s been stolen!
Me: How do you know it’s a shirt?
Mom: I didn’t hang any pants outside.
Me: You’re sure you didn’t just miss a hanger?
Mom: Of course not. I didn’t have enough hangers and went to get extra so I’d have exactly the number needed.
Me: *somewhat indifferently* Oh.
Me: Wait, how do you know it’s not my shirt?
Mom: I don’t.
Me: *suddenly twice as helpful and invested in the outcome* We’re not fashionable enough to get stolen from. Could it have been blown away? It’s got to be close by.
Mom: I think so. Can you tell which shirt might be missing?
As we sneak into the abandoned parking garage across the street to search, I start describing all the tops I can recall that we own, probably even the ones we didn’t pack for the trip.
Me: The blue one? That long-sleeve white sweater I told you not to buy? That one blouse you wore that one time? The striped navy/black top you wore this morning?
Mom: *gestures, unimpressed, to the striped navy/black top she is still wearing as of this morning*
We never found the shirt anywhere, which might have something to do with our complete inability to picture what we were looking for. Since then, thoughts of which article of clothing I’m missing are still monopolizing my mental faculties.
D-Day (D for Disappearance), I opened the closet door, sat on the ground, made a mental list of shirts, took a long, hard look at my life, and then thought of some more shirts. Another night I woke up sweating, and my first waking thought was that I might have slit someone’s throat with a blunted knife in my dream. (My second waking thought was that it might have been an undershirt.)
The afternoon before my all-nighter, I lay, eyes wide open, in bed, unable to stop going through more clothes in my mind. At night, mentally iterating shirts was one of the methods I used to prop my eyes open.
You could say that recently my life has been a special kind of hell. I can’t adequately express my relief when I made it through to morning (as close to 2PM/12AM as I could get) after a night of staring through my laptop screen. I rubbed my bleary eyes and settled into the covers and let out the most satisfying exhale. I finally stopped resisting the weight of my eyelids and prepared to succumb to sweet slumber.
And that’s when the heavy construction started right outside my window.
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