a long time ago now, i lived in austin, texas. i had a really good time there and sometimes, when i allow myself to think about it, i miss it so much it makes my chest hurt. but it was a time and place sort of thing, and if i saw that city again i think it would almost make me sick. i decided years ago i was just never going to go back. it was this perfect little time in my life and i have tucked it away in the back of mind to stay there forever. if i revisit it too often, it will lose its luster, or whatever, and feel lifeless to me. i would prefer to just keep it hidden, even from myself.
i lived in austin with my childhood friend jason. i got him to leave virginia to come be my roommate there, thinking it would help him finally escape our hometown. we had a crappy little house in west campus, in hyde park, and we loved it so much. we had a front and back yard and everything. my rent was $500 a month. i never worried about money and it was easy to get on there.
i remember my girlfriend at the time called austin a “velvet rut” . . . the city was extremely comforting and inviting, almost like a small town, but you also felt adrift in a way. because the closest major city was san antonio, and practically nothing notable in the places between, it did come to feel like you were living on the moon. you had to get on an airplane to see anything else. once i had seen all of austin, and done everything there, it was difficult for me to justify staying. it took me about three years to wring the place dry of any new experiences, and then i decided i would move to california.
towards the end of my time there, in late spring of 2013, i got a little sad and would walk around all night and try to feel all right. i wanted to leave, but i knew that once i did, it would end the life i had there forever. for one reason or another, i pretty much stopped sleeping altogether, and began to change into a stranger person than i had been previously. i guess this sort of thing is inevitable when most of your life takes place at night. i was lonely but i wanted to be alone, which is a difficult feeling to reconcile.
jason went to sleep at nine, so we hardly saw each other, what with my being awake until four or five in the morning. the sleep i did get was awful, or brief, or filled with nightmares . . . and sometimes i could count on having a night where i ended up experiencing all three . . .
about a week before i left for california, jason and i were driving around in my jeep with the windows down. it was nighttime and warm outside and we had decided to go to the texas state capitol building downtown and get stoned in the lawn there and watch the bats fly around above the lights. i had on this deer tick song, and we were silent and listening to it. lord help me, i’m about to post a particular lyric we heard just then:
“but i was searching for something / a sleepless night / painless and drugged”
jason said, “that part always reminds me of you.”
i wondered at what he had said, and figured that maybe you really could typify me that way. you still can. practically everyone knows i stay up very late every single night of my life, no matter how early i have to be up in the morning . . . which is why i am often the first and only person people call when they need someone to talk to in the strange hours between midnight and four. well, you just know i’m gonna be awake, and you know i’m gonna pick up my phone for you.
i guess i was thinking about this again tonight because, nearly a decade later, i still have not been able to shake the sad feeling of loneliness and aloneness, and being doomed to stay awake, even if sleep would allow me to stop thinking and feel better for a little while. forgive me for sounding victorian, but i really do feel tortured and haunted, even though i know it’s just all in my head. it feels so real to me. i just need any reprieve at all to get away from this and stop feeling things so strongly. i have to take so many sleep aids to sedate myself. you could tranquilize an elephant with the amount of skullcap and passion flower and edibles i have to imbibe in order to power down my body and leave the waking world behind. painless and drugged, baby. that’s the only way i can get by. i can’t get out from under the thing, and oh god i wish i knew how . . .
well: i have taken my sleep cocktail. i have put on a sleepy playlist. i have made my room dark and cold. and now i’m going to try to close my eyes and stop being ryan for as long as possible.