THE SLEEPING PILL
After I graduated from college with dual degrees in Art and Spanish, I fell asleep. I slept without knowing that I slept and that sleeping covered an entire continent of sleep for six full years. From 2003 to 2009.
In 2009, I woke up and fucked Florida. I mean there was a man in Florida that I was welcomed to fuck. He lifted me up three flights of stairs and I had a phallic piece of Florida that gave me no peace. Before I woke up, I was sleeping deeply. After I graduated from college, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I knew art was dead and beyond that there was nothing.
I slept without knowing that I slept. For six years I worked at a non-manual-labor job. It was like a sleeping pill that I swallowed but didn’t know I had swallowed. I came to work and work sucked my soul and before I knew it, I had slept and six years had gone by and I had not moved a single creative chalk across the blackboard of my life. This sleeping pill was subtle and somewhat friendly; it entered my bloodstream like the air I breathe and it wasn’t dangerous. It didn’t smell harmful and in some ways, it was kind of relaxing, this passing of time and me in a deep state of sleep.
I know I have a physical heart, but I also have a spiritual heart lying somewhere. In the ether, of all places.
It’s a quiet, subtle sleeping pill that enters my body in the form of a 9-5 job. And I don’t know that I am sleeping because a job can be a tranquilizer.
My spiritual heart is lying on an immaculate table in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the forest wilderness, and I am all alone, completely alone and this life or this physician called God is trying to jumpstart my heart back to life. And each shock starts with a crying episode.
And I am sleeping.
I have been sleeping before.
The value of stability.
And I am crying. This sobbing wound. This sobbing that absorbs my face and soaks up my atomic composition.
I have been sleeping and I am afraid to sleep again.
After waking, I find myself standing outside of myself, falling asleep again and I am standing outside of myself trying to wake myself up, but I crave sleep. And while I am dozing, a hand, my hand is tapping my left shoulder, telling me, “Don’t fall.” Yet, I am falling into sleep again and I don’t want to wake up again this time to fuck another state. I’d rather not do that.
There are a lot of things in life I regret, but this is not of one them.
This is one of them. This falling. I am falling again.
In Florida, I woke up and fucked. But also, I didn’t fuck decently enough. In Florida, I was lying on a mattress, a deflated mattress with a tiny hole I didn’t know existed and I didn’t know I could find. But every two hours, the mattress flattened itself and like my hand, shook me awake. It didn’t occur to me to wake up to find the leaking hole and to slap a piece of tape over it. I woke up to insert a pump into the mattress’ mouth and inflated it and I felt asleep again. Several hours later, the mattress was lying on the floor deflated, but it felt like it was standing up and shaking its head and tapping on my shoulder ubiquitously to shake me wide awake. Wide awake, I fell back to sleep.
I have this recurring dream that I was sleeping a lot. Consistently and overwhelmingly and as I write this, I want to crawl into a hole and sleep.
Another crying episode where I explode into a bathtub of tears. I lick my tears because I am craving salt. God is standing over me with an external defibrillator to jumpstart my heart. He is hovering over me with his jumper cables and God looks electrified and I look like nothing.
Rather, I look naked, lying on that immaculate table, waiting to wake up. God is hovering over me again, the hood of my soul lifted half-way open. He takes one glance at me and tells me, “My jumpstart cables won’t do you any good. You need a new battery. I suggest you go to Walmart!”
I go to Walmart and God is standing in Aisle 18, in the cotton swabs department. I fall asleep in Aisle 17 and God is circling a Q-tip with his left hand in his ear as he hovers over my sleeping body. While falling in and out of sleep I ask God, “Are you bored?”
God hovers over me and tells me, “I am collecting enough wax to build you a little prayer candle. Also called a votive candle. It might take me forever, but I thought I’d try.”
I laugh. I fall in and out of sleep. Another crying episode and I find myself in the middle of a cornfield and the wind is blowing, blowing past me. Past the oak trees, pass the bridge, and God is laughing and I am crying and my eyes are like house gutters collecting rainwater from the rainstorm. And I see God wearing magenta high heels in a hot pink áo dài that is too small for him. It exposes his excessive stomach fat and its high collars are making his chin itchy. He is holding a freshly prepared phở bowl and a pair of chopsticks. I am about to fall asleep again when God approaches me and says, “I am here to collect your tears.”
I ask God politely, “What for?”
God replies, “Look here, Vi. Instead of finishing my bowl of phở, I am placing my chopsticks across the bowl so that your tears can safely walk across this makeshift bridge into the unknown abyss without falling into boiling water, which is greasy with beef broth.”
I look at God as if he were crazy and I tell him, “You are crazy. I don’t care if my tears get soiled or boiled or foiled as long as I am not sad anymore.”
Before falling asleep, God whispers into my waxless ears, like igniting light into a waxless candle, “Thank you, Vi, for washing the dishes for me.”
Vi Khi Nao is the author of novel, Fish in Exile, and poetry collection, The Old Philosopher. Vi’s work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. She was the winner of 2014 Nightboat Poetry Prize and the 2016 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest.
Author photo credit: Stephen Olsen