Last night I was sitting outside in the eighty-degree night staring at a very pretty orange fingernail moon and thinking about not very much. My brain flatlines a lot these days, which is equal parts unnerving and pleasant. It’s unnerving because my brain usually likes to hook onto something and nibble at it when I’m sitting outside staring blankly at whatever and I’m used to that, but it’s also sort of enjoyable because this new fallowness makes me feel like very relaxed and noun-like, a sort of granite birdbath of a person. This is pretty much the only extreme change I’ve experienced in my personality since The Unbloggable, and that’s a huge relief. I think it has something to do with the fact that I sleep in two-hour shifts three times a day, whereas I used to sleep in one big twelve-hour chunk. I miss that, but not as much as I’d expected to.
When I was a freshman in college, I became an insomniac. I always thought of myself as an insomniac, but prior to my freshman year in college I was just humoring myself. I was an insomnia hobbyist: I just talked on the phone forever every night and wrote in my diary like a dweeb until dawn, and then I slept in science class. When I got to college and was in a room with a stranger, one of those horrible tapestries from the head shop hung around my bed on nails stuck into the ceiling so I could pretend my roommate wasn’t alive and watching Interview with a Vampire over and over next to me, I realized pretty quickly what insomnia really is. It is a Stephen King novel. Actually and figuratively. I stayed up for six days straight eating two-pound sandwiches from Meeting Street Cafe and then hauling ass to the gym to be a psycho with bloodshot eyes on the stationary bike listening to The Promise Ring (!!) and wondering what my blood pressure was (two thousand over nine million). I have no idea why this happened to me other than the fact that I was always consumed with irrational fear that I’d sleep through my first class, or that my roommate would pull the tapestry aside and stare at me as I slept and then take pictures of me drooling to show her friends, or that she would let someone from down the hall borrow my CD’s without asking (this one was not irrational; someone tried to forgive their debt to my Case Logic with a Nickel Creek CD — how could I sleep with all of the shitty music inflicted on me by myself and other people? Why do I associate freshman year with a Jimmy Eat World song (“Table for Glasses”)? If I’d dusted off my Talking Heads CD would I have conked out for five days from sheer relief?). What I remember most from freshman year is walking around feeling exhausted. Crying because I was exhausted, drinking large Dunkin Donuts iced coffees because I was exhausted (and because they are delicious), scooping ice cream at my job and leaning against the walls of the deep freezer as I cleaned it in a job-issued parka because I was exhausted. Why was I so exhausted then, but now am just “tired” or even, on a bad day, “really sleepy”?
I think the biggest fear after The Unbloggable happens is that you will suddenly become a stranger to yourself. That everything will change, not only your routine and your surroundings and what you do with your other hand when you drink your cup of coffee in the morning, but that your heart and your brain will become another heart and another brain. People who have experienced The Unbloggable can seem so alien: who were they in their previous lives? Did their Facebook albums feature them sliding down poles in teeny-tiny American Apparel shorts revealing teeny-tiny ass tattoos of feathers, or did they update their statuses every five minutes with links to the new Rick Ross tracks and the word “sicccckkkxxx”? Do they scrub these artifacts and replace them exclusively with images of The Unbloggable? And if they did, how can they not feel, sometimes, so sad, like they’ve crossed over to the land that time forgot? Maybe a brain flatlines because thinking about these questions stumps it stupid. When I look in the mirror, I look the same, and when I swat a mosquito on my leg, I hate it just as much as I hated it before The Unbloggable.
Come to think of it, though: there are those coyotes in the yard. Last spring, a coyote had puppies under the stairs that lead down to a patch of dust and underbrush ten feet from my door. They were adorable and terrifying, little baby monsters that created a really inconvenient problem of having to drive my dog somewhere far away to pee. I looked into ways to remove them, but there was nothing humane to do except to place human scent in their hangout spot — so because my dog would not pee where coyotes had, I did, and for awhile there was a stalemate during which I alone owned the yard. I did not want to own the yard; I wanted my dog to own the yard so I would not have to drive her all over creation in my sweatpants. Eventually the dog and I came to an understanding and the coyotes stayed away, but then yesterday they came back as full-grown wolf-sized angry-looking animals. My first response was to yell at them and toss a dead zinnia at their heads, but then I was so overwhelmed by guilt and pathetic oozing sad kindness that I just sat down and thought about how hungry they probably were and went inside to try to think of a reason to forgive the world for being so mean sometimes. Zzzzz. The soft person. But it’s not a stranger, it’s just a soft person who has lost the cork to the gentle fizz that always existed somewhere between the lowest rib and the kidneys.
The soft person and the not-sleeping and The Unbloggable are related, obviously, and the first two are what make the last one what it is: unbloggable. Suddenly you find yourself so tender and confused (midnight to two, five to seven, maybe nine to eleven or if not nine to eleven sometime in the afternoon, you forgot when, it may have been a time during which you were supposed to answer the phone but didn’t or were supposed to have gotten your laundry but forgot) that you get shot through with panic that you might write or say something you shouldn’t (Jimmy Eat World?!) and expose your fuzzy little underbelly to cruelty you are no longer equipped to handle. You become protective in a way you understand writers — and artists, and actors, and anyone whose job is predicated on placing part of themselves in the center of what they create — can’t really be. You’re not at the center of anything anymore, and maybe that’s why a lot of writers shift from creating content about themselves to creating content about The Unbloggable. But that doesn’t sit well with me. Though I understand the impulse and enjoy reading about The Unbloggable — and though I wrote about the drumroll leading up to The Unbloggable for print, which I hope might feel somehow more removed from me than unprint — it gives me a gut-punch to think about doing it myself. Nobody throws zinnias at the heads of baby coyotes. In no time, however, they’re a little less big, and if you conk them between the eyes you get fifty points and a goldfish to take home. Soft. Zzzz.
So you have to craft two lives out of what used to be one, in order to not be terrified of continuing to feel entitled to be the person you always were and to be thought of as the same individual who screwed up occasionally. We have so much access to our own archives, the poles and the ass tattoos and the GPOYWs and the strangled essays from 2006. You can scrub them or you can integrate them, pinning an orange tie-dyed piece of crap on the ceiling to keep them where they belong. I feel as though I might need them, because if they evaporated into a hot late-August night to the strains of old shitty emo music, I’d be left feeling like I had to start all over. And then I’d just have the flatline, and the circle of wonderfulness that’s Unbloggable for a reason (and, actually, that would be almost, but not quite, enough). It doesn’t hurt very much when someone throws a dead plant at my head. I’m an old coyote. I have a thick crust. The Unbloggable has to stay in the house when I come out into the yard, where it’s scary and dangerous and mistakes happen. It’s my yard. I need it. I peed on it. It’s mine.