By Matt Gordon
Yesterday I witnessed an amazing spectacle.
Years ago my entire company stopped everything to watch an especially noteworthy eclipse. I’ve stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon and peered out from Alpine peaks. Rivers and valleys in several continents, I’ve looked on in wonder. I saw James Cameron’s Avatar in 3D. But what I saw yesterday dwarfed these phenomena.
My three year old son was sleeping, as one does, in bed, at night. And then he shuddered a bit, rolled a little, and plopped violently out of bed. It was quite the fall, especially given his diminutive stature. You know how ants falling just a few inches would be like us falling off a skyscraper? His falling the three feet from bed to floor had to be at least like me toppling from a tree or something. It was loud too—his small impact made the house tremble a bit.
I waited for his confusion, his wail, his panic. But none of these rose to the surface. Nope—silent night, holy night—the babe slept on. He didn’t even stir! Deciding it would be unwise to allow him to spend the night on the floor, I headed to his room to move him. Opening the door didn’t wake him. Inspecting him with my phone light caused not a movement. The slumber was bottomless and impenetrable. A morbid thought entered my mind, so I shot my hand forward to test for life. He breathed steadily, deeply. I hoisted his limp frame awkwardly, commentating as I went: “Okay, buddy. You fell out of bed and I’m just going to sort of put you back.”
I dropped him on the bed harder than I wanted. It didn’t matter. He slept on. I covered him. Kissed him. Nothing. So I kissed him again. Still nothing.
I was staggered.
Sleep is not my forte, you see. I enjoy it mightily but suffer from a sensitivity to noise, to light, to movement, to wrinkled sheets, to hangnails snagging covers, to the sudden awareness that the oven was left on or the door unlocked, to the knowledge that the man from the story I heard a few years ago about a man who enters homes naked and sleeps on people’s bedroom floors is asleep on my bedroom floor.
When I was my young son’s age, I leapt from my top bunk to catch some intruder or use the bathroom even though I didn’t need to or inspect some source of light or make sure that naked perv wasn’t around, and I landed on the backend of a steel Tonka truck. The front end got acquainted with my face, and I got acquainted with the doctor’s office and stitches. So my problem is not new. Or good.
I’m tired all the time. And I cannot just sleep when tired—oh no, that would be far too easy. I can sleep in one bed on earth, and in one position in that bed. My wife is a cuddler. So I bought her a body pillow because cuddling is not conducive to lying on my right side with my foot propped onto my opposite knee like a prostrate Aborigine. If we go on a trip, I lay there awake, thinking about my oven, all those miles away, inconveniently left on.
Planes are the very worst. How wondrous it would be to snooze the horror of modern flight away. I was on a thirteen hour overnight flight once from Istanbul where every person on the plane was asleep. I knocked on the cockpit door and suggested since I was going to be up anyway that the pilots get some much deserved shut-eye. While everyone else fueled up on rest, I got my diesel on by watching the entire Fast and Furious franchise and was plunged into existential crisis. Then, as the sun started to inch toward the little round windows, I watched as person-by-person a gradual awakening happened—yawns and stretches and a general freshness. I sat red-eyed and delusional, hoping that naked guy had the good sense to lock the door of my house behind him when he left.
This morning I asked my son about his tumble. He had no recollection of any of it. I don’t know what to do with that. With people who sleep through falls or get up and walk around at night. What dreams may come, indeed, for those privileged enough to REM their way to them. I am truly at a loss to this mystery and what it says about them and about me. But tonight for eight sweet hours, I’ll assume the walkabout pose and give it a good, long think. If there is any time left, I’ll consider my little son, and count some sheep and blessings that he is my better in more ways than one, a waking dream come true.