by Suze Allen

(A weary woman in her late 30’s early 40’s is sitting at her kitchen table talking to a neighbor.)

Sleep deprived mice eat their young. My friend Christine told me. She worked in a lab in Toronto when she was draft dodging with her boyfriend. It was her job to keep mama mice up for days. After the mouse had been awake for two weeks straight – gulp. Baby mice down the hatch and then clonk out she went. A full belly and a bed and she slept for days. Christine didn’t go into detail about when the mama mouse woke up and realized what she had done. Being a rodent and all, I suppose there were no searing psychological after effects. Being a human, I know that there is always a pharmaceutical antidote to searing psychological pain so I hold up eating my young as a possible solution to my problem.
I have been awake since 2003. And I do not mean enlightened. I have been “up” as in not sleeping. Nights in my house are just choppy, darker versions of days. My daughter tosses and turns and nurses and then sits up and talks about her day and what she wants. Her desires are simple but they mean getting out of bed and turning on lights and retrieving things. She needs water.

She has to pee. “Do I have to pee?” Well, now that she mentions it- yeah. But I could have slept through it. At this point I could sleep through the Blue Angels flying practice runs in my living room. I am afraid that if the big quake comes I will just slip into a hole in the earth without trying to save myself. Since my husband needs far less sleep than I do, I am counting on him to grab the childrens’ legs as they start to descend. I know they’ll miss me but they’ll get over it. Like Warren Zevon said, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” Death is looking more and more attractive to me these days. I mean it’s not like I long for death. I’m not wandering around my life reciting, “I could not stop for death so death kindly stopped for me” or anything. I don’t want to commit suicide but if a car veered into my lane when I was the only one in the van, I wouldn’t have that desperate last thought, “ I have so much to live for…” even though I do. I’d just be grateful for some rest.

Or maybe I wouldn’t have to die in the accident. Maybe just be in a coma for two years to make up for lost sleep. The whole coma solution is appealing because I could still dream but I wouldn’t have to make supper.

And the children could visit me and rub my still, skinny body but they’d that know that soon I will sit bolt upright and set up an art project. It’s not a sad as picturing them leaning over a coffin; all the tears and gnashing of teeth. At least there better be gnashing of teeth after all I’ve done for them.

Someone told me that you can’t catch up on sleep but I don’t know exactly what that means. If you lose your sleep, it is like losing your youth? Gone forever, even if you try and wear leather mini skirts and drink too much and drive a red corvette? I do know that since I haven’t been practicing sleeping, I have gotten very bad at it. If I get the rare moment to nap, I just lie there and stare at the ceiling, my head full of busy bees planning corporate honeycomb takeovers. I lie there and list all the things I could be doing if I weren’t so damn tired and then I get up and eat.

Constant eating is the only way I can get through the day. My favorite is a peanut butter, cheese and tri-tip sandwich. Protein is the only food that gets my synapses firing enough to remember the children’s names. Sugar and caffeine do not help. On sugar and caffeine, I feel like Helen Hunt in that after school special when she gets all high on speed and jumps out the science lab window.

I don’t want the children to see me run screaming out the window. We only live on the second floor and I would not die just break many bones. I would still have to make dinner, do laundry and plan educational projects, only in a cast. And the children would have emotional scars. Post traumatic stress from seeing Mommy fly out the window. In later years, though, the memory might curb their sugar intake. Who knows? No, I eat flesh and other proteinous foods to maintain basic body functions like walking and talking and releasing waste. Now that I am thinking of it, I am overtly carnivorous these days. Maybe that’s a sign that I am getting closer to wanting to gobble up my offspring.

My daughter is very fleshy and delectable these days. I’d say she’s 30 pounds give or take an ounce. She’s a Pisces so she might taste like fish. I like fish. Especially salmon. But, I’d have to bake her in the oven like that drugged out babysitter of urban myth did back in the late sixties and that would not satisfy me. Then, I’d have to pull her apart and eat her slowly and I’d see her beautiful eyes staring at me like Cindy Lou Who… “Why are you eating me, Mommy. Why?”

Nah, I think I’ll just keep wandering around like an overweight zombie. I love her too much to eat her.