|Essay from June 2010
The college-professor, cancer-infected, chemotherapy-treated
protagonist of the marvelous play, entitled WIT, teaches the
young nurse the word "soporific" as they hook up the morphine
drip, "Well, I don't know about that, but it'll really make you
sleepy!" chirps the nurse and they laugh and the lady does get
sleepy, very sleepy, sleepier and sleep --|
We spend the morning cooking, cutting ingredients for stuffing, stuffing the turkey, peeling potatoes, making bread for hot rolls, Adela bakes three pies, I cut vegetables and fruit for salads, the family comes, we stuff ourselves on too much food, too many kinds of food, and afterward we get sleepy, very sleepy, I say there must be something in turkey, it happens every holiday, and Katie says, well there is something in turkey, it's L-tryptophan, makes you sleepy all right, I can't concentrate on the football game on TV, too sleepy --
We stop for a margarita and salsa and tortilla chips and guacamole and chicken flautas and beef taquitos and lettuce and melted cheese and carne adovada chimichangas, and we get so sleepy we wonder if something in the food was bad, but we laugh and say it was just the tequila and go to bed early and forget about dreaming --
In a story by Jack London, "To Build a Fire," a fellow lets his last match go out, the wind blows it out, in the Yukon in the midwinter dark, he panics for a minute, then calms down and everything slows down, and then he goes to sleep and freezes --
I cut myself shaving and think little of it, it's not my chin, but the side of my neck, the blood is dark red, a small vein maybe, really stupid of me, I get in the bathtub and wash my underarms and my face and my legs and feet, really hot water, as hot as I can stand, forget about the cut, I lie back and relax, close my eyes, relax, lose track of --
I am driving at night on the freeway between cities, my companion is asleep beside me, the eyes of on-coming vehicles hurt my lights, I squeeze them shut, and open them, and move in my seat, hunching forward concentrating on keeping my lights open, the radio is nothing but static, I'm so sleepy I wonder if something we ate was bad, poison works that way, one's head swims, one's pulse slows down and breathing becomes more and more shallow, I open the window a crack, the air helps but the noise becomes monotonous, I think of a poem I am writing, try to remember what I have already written, a myth can deceive, feel a roughness through the steering wheel, open my lights, the left wheels are off the road, I swerve back --
We watch television and catch the newscaster leaving out important parts of his story, and slanting the questions he asks people, and lying, and we yell back at him, calling him a liar, but he keeps on lying tirelessly, and then a female anchor comes on grinning and misinterpreting and misunderstanding her own story and lying and we're too tired to yell back at her and too sleepy to get up and turn the damn TV --
We have been fed a very dangerous soporific. It is killing us. Many we know are already brain dead. All have been poisoned. It is very lonely to be the last to succumb, the last to go down knowing that we are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude.
Slogans are replacing thought.
Reason is suspect.
Proof is unavailable.
Responsibility has become passe.
It is nobody's fault.
Truth is relative.
What's the question?
One answer is as good as another.
Does anyone wish to call attention to himself by raising an objection?
If all the people who fell asleep in church would be laid end to end, they'd be a lot more comfortable.
You may die happy.
You may go to sleep.
You need not watch, because you know not the hour when the end comes.
Rest in peace.