Long Hours of Wakefulness

I had too much on my mind to stay asleep after 2:00 a.m.  No matter how I tried to empty my mind, vexing thoughts kept filling my head. Anxieties, worries, concerns—whatever names one might attach to troubling matters—would not leave my brain. Finally, about a quarter to 4:00, I surrendered. For the last hour, I’ve tried to focus my mind by writing, but the thoughts that kept me awake have insisted on intruding on my efforts to string together words into rational sentences. In place of coherent ideas, damaged fragments of incomplete sentences sprayed from my fingers. Finally, though, I think the flood of broken thoughts has begun to subside, leaving only the occasional urgent flush of insanity issuing forth onto the screen. For some reason, I want to be sealed inside a spacecraft hurling through black space toward the distant edge of the universe; I long to be able to look through a single window so I can see what is in front of me, in the direction I am headed. That wish is enough to drag me away from the vexations that have kept me awake since the early hours of the day.


The churning of my stomach is sufficiently powerful to make loud noises, noises that would interfere with conversations if I were in the company of people who wished to converse with me. Not only do I hear the peristalsis, I feel it, as if my internal organs are attempting to flee my torso. I do not use the word, peristalsis, often. In fact, I had to search out the word for the involuntary constriction and relaxation of the muscles of the intestines. But I felt compelled to do the research, because no other word adequately describes the process responsible for both the noise and the sensation of attempted intestinal escape. The strength of the churning is such that I am a little concerned my abdominal cavity may be unable to contain the fiercely nomadic organs. What will I do if they succeed in breaking through the barriers that lock them inside? Will I allow them to go, leaving me limp and almost lifeless  and unable to call for help? Or will I seize them with the last ounce of strength in my hands, hoping my grip will prevent them from attaining their freedom? I think I’ve managed to calm my mind, but not my body. I no longer sense the imminent escape of my bowels from my body, but I feel their dissatisfaction, as demonstrated by their angry twisting and turning. So, there’s no immediate need to wonder what I will do. That question will wait.


Today will be very busy. So I won’t be able to sit, motionless, in the cockpit of a spacecraft with my eyes fixed on the far edge of the universe. That reality—that I cannot escape the demands of this world for now—leaves me sullen and depressed. My bad temper is not suited to this first day of the work-week. Even though I no longer “work” in the usual sense of the word, the week remains a work-week to me. Will it ever be just another series of days?


Even though it’s not yet a quarter to six, I’ll get something to eat. That will probably exacerbate the peristalsis. Not only am I sullen, I may be stupid.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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