Insomniac, part 1
Tariq checked the clock. Again. He watched the red, glaring digits as 2:59 became 3:00.
He stared at the ceiling. Light from the street lamps outside leaked through tiny holes in the window shade and speckled the room with oblong, amber shapes. Tariq squinted and the shapes seemed to become swarms of tiny insects, crawling over each other on the walls.
He sighed. He thought it would be a good idea to get up and get a drink of water, but he didn’t like moving around the apartment at night. Whenever he turned on a light, the inevitable cockroaches would scurry for the walls and skitter under furniture. If he didn’t go out there, he wouldn’t have to think about them.
“You need to be up in three and a half hours,” thought Tariq. He turned on his right side and shut his eyes.
Layoffs were coming. 15% if the rumors were true. His manager had been on a pin all week. She cursed whenever someone walked into her office and apologized whenever anyone finished a project. Brad, his only friend in the department, kept asking Tariq about his sales numbers. Tariq felt uncomfortable when he admitted they were twice Brad’s. Brad said he didn’t know what he’d do if he were let go. He said no one was hiring. Tariq didn’t say anything. He was worried he wouldn’t be in the 15%. He wanted the excuse to leave. He’d been an art history major. He had no love for finance.
Of course, he didn’t know how he would pay his rent without the job.
“Don’t worry about work. You can’t solve anything tonight,” thought Tariq. He rolled onto his left side and squirmed until the mattress molded around his body. He pulled a pillow to his chest and spooned it.
Tariq thought about how he used to fantasize about sex as a way to fall asleep. He’d imagine himself someplace mundane- the laundromat, the library, the grocery store. He’d be washing his clothes or reading a book or buying dinner and from the corner of his eye Tariq would notice that a stranger was watching him. Tariq would look back and be surprised by how stunning this stranger was. They would hold each other’s gaze. They would bite their lips. They would hold their breath. And then, without a word, they’d be kissing, they’d be groping, they’d be fucking, they’d be doing obscene things atop the washing machine, the returns cart, the frozen foods case. Onlookers would point. A crowd would gather, offended and aroused. And at some point, Tariq would slip from fantasies to dreaming. And he’d be asleep.
But tonight it wasn’t working. Instead of a sexy stranger, Shelly appeared beside him at the bus stop in his mind. Her gaze wasn’t suggestive. She gave him a polite nod and turned away. Tariq was uncomfortable. They’d broken up nine months ago, so he figured it must have been a year since he’d last had sex. He missed Shelly, but even more, he was jealous of her. She’d gotten a job with a paper in Boston, she was dating someone, and, if her facebook photos were any indication, she was happy. In his imagination, Tariq watched while Shelly stepped onto the bus and was gone.
“Sleep,” thought Tariq, “you need sleep.” He twisted in the blanket. He could feel his heart beat. He tried to calm it. He focused on his breath. His inhalations were shallow. His exhalations had ragged edges.
“Fuck!” said Tariq aloud and he opened his eyes.
“Fruitless,” he thought.
“Wide awake,” he said.
In the darkness of the room, the dots of light on the ceiling resembled distant stars. Tariq closed his right eye and studied the stars. He imagined himself lying in a field, camping, with the Milky Way spread out like infinity above him. The stars twinkled. He made up constellations. He could see Anubis’s Scales and Yoni Major, Bifrost and Spanakopita.
Tariq had never been camping. He’d spent most of his life in the city surrounded by people and light pollution. Most nights you were lucky to be able to see the moon. The thought of being alone in the forest made him feel cold. He shook the thought from his head.
It was no use. He would need to get up and move around, tire himself out. Tariq braced himself for the cockroaches.