There’s a certain look that a room has when you’re absentmindedly staring at it, half-awake, in the middle of the night. It resembles a stippling drawing or the black and white cable channels that come in fuzzy…. except without the broken porn images. Usually.
Scarier than the look of a room at 5 a.m. is the thoughts that entertain your mind at that hour; tonight a depressing amount of them have been Facebook related. Pre-planning wall posts and messages and then refining them to 3rd draft status. These will most likely never see the light of day for even in my clearly unsound nighttime mind I question their relevance. I justify my superficial mental wanderings by passing them off as timely thoughts of overseas correspondence. If I was in the same situation 50 years prior I’d be thinking about what I would write in my letters; perhaps even leaning over to light the candle, breaking out the quill and ink and writing a few nonsensical drafts wasting precious scroll.
While I’m not (legally) a doctor, and I have yet to WebMD my symptoms, I have diagnosed myself with an acute case of insomnia. For the past few days I’ve been having the most inconvenient sleep schedule, usually falling asleep around 1:30 and then waking up around 4, or 5, entertaining myself with reading again or (to your current benefit [or not]) writing, and then falling back asleep anywhere from 7-8:30 am waking up about 2 or 3 hours later. Usually a severe sneezing and simultaneously stuffy nose accompanies the insomnia. During the day I’m reasonably fine, feeling no sleepier than my well rested self of the past. The waking hours my nose seems to forget it ever had a problem as well. Again, as I must remind myself, the “Crayola Factory: Doctor of Drawing Certificate” I received in Elementary School doesn’t legally make me a doctor, yet I still feel compelled to assess the possible causes of my sleeplessness. “Nurse please take this down…and use the Cornflower blue crayon.”
Chief, and currently sole, in the list of suspects is my physical, immediate surroundings…my room. Cara summed up the Parisian apartment situation by saying the price you pay for keeping beautiful old exteriors is crappy old interiors, and we literally live and “sleep” those unfortunate circumstances. We signed the contract to our apartment sight unseen except for a few JPEGs on the apartment agency website and while we had good motivation for taking such rash actions (impending homelessness) there are certain things a photo cannot show you. Let it be known that our apartment is comfortable in size, has a layout that works well for our makeshift 2-bedroom status and features a 700 Euro antique buffet stand, so during the waking hours I’m quite content with the space.
The previously mentioned “things” that do not show up in the JPEGs are ambiguous mold, visible instillation, unknown wall materials and makeshifts ceilings. While the mold and installation spots are fairly contained and small I’m more worried about my bedroom wall and “ceiling”. Upon entering the bedroom anyone with a vision exceeding the legally blind status will take note of the interesting look of the walls, which can best be described as fake white-washed wood. The actual material is anything but a fine French timber. It is texturized, with ridges and marks resembling wood but with a touch that resembles more of stucco/felt hybrid. Running your hands across it lightly, you’d understand the stucco reference, but press your fingers deeper into certain portions and you’d have the unwelcome sensation of experiencing what feels like the love child between a sponge and common felt. I have also never been in the contracting, carpentry or even woodworking field but I feel safe in assuming that these spongy sections of my walls are signs that the walls are actually alive. I’m living in a giant fungus and come December I’ll simply wake up grab a chunk of my wall on the way to the kitchen, grab an egg and fix myself a delicious egg and mushroom omelet. Always a bright side…or a porous side.
Our first actual night in the apartment Cara and I decided to celebrate with a bottle of French Champagne. The only champagne featured on college campuses is the five-dollar bottles of Andre, which, if I remember correctly, do not feature the classic “popping” cork; they might in fact actually have a flip top and easy to grip “sport” sides. Thankfully Paris does not carry Andre but instead real, or at least better-disguised fake, Champagne. To me the downside to Champagne is the popping of the cork to which I have a fear accurately gauged only in terms of high-pitched squeals and look-away head turns. Naturally as the man of the apartment I made Cara open the bottle, suggesting she open the bottle out the window. Although I imagined the cork skyrocketing out of the bottle and careening across the expansive street and into a neighbor’s window, I much preferred that to the inevitable lamp-shattering cork popping, followed by the brief foamy tidal wave that would occur if she opened it near me. She didn’t see my logic. I turned away, heard the pop and turned to see if Cara made it out alive. “What happened?” I asked in response to her shocked look, but I answered my own question as I followed her gaze to a literal tear in our ceiling. If you were wondering what materials a cork can break through, you can add “synthetic nylon ceilings” to the list. Since the landlady was coming on Monday to go over the inventory of the apartment we immediately and maturely fixed the problem by patching the tear with a torn piece of nearby paper. “If I don’t have my glasses on, I can’t even tell there’s a tear. That’s a good sign,” Cara reassured me.
While the Champagne bottle story is not directly related to my insomnia, besides filling a brief portion of it, it does explain how I came to realize that I have no idea what condition the actual ceilings are in. This is not a mystery I am looking to solve for the sight of what is actually up above will probably only add nightmares to my sleeping handicap.
Dawn has yet to break but my eyes have adjusted to the dark: the covers and my feet no longer appear to be created by many soft dots, the clean nylon ceiling not as fuzzy, the tissue graveyard beside my bed more in focus and my mental wandering slowing down. A few welcome yawns are as much a signal as I need to try again. I’ll be asleep soon and when I wake up the only things I’ll be able to piece together is that I need to WebMd something, cook myself a mushroom and egg omelet and sharpen my Cornflower blue crayon.