BED. I HAVE NEVER LIKED GOING TO BED -- in the sense of
going to sleep. The bed as an article of furniture, as a tool, I of
course find multifariously useful; there are all sorts of things you can
do on and in one, as John and Yoko so memorably demonstrated, at all times
of the day. Sometimes when I check into a hotel, I like to jump up and
down on the bed -- really get wild, you know -- which is something I won't
do to my bed at home, though it is in its nature to be jumped upon. And
read in. And something else I can't remember.
It isn't the bed I hate, then, but bedtime -- that terrible moment when
the day is packed up for the night, when toys and books must be put away and
the light turned out, the light that generations of scientists slaved to
invent and this is how we repay them. It is possibly a congenital
predisposition, this quirk of mine: As far back as I can remember it was
my ambition, my deepest desire, even more than to throw my voice or to be
the third Hardy Boy, to stay up all night, not merely to see the dawn but
all that precedes it. This was something beyond and apart from my
concomitant desire to watch more television, vast fertile tracts of
which lay beyond the cruelly early hour set for my retiring. It was a kind
of physical and mental challenge, a daring adventure into the unknown
hours, spread out like a dark forbidden zone between myself and daylight.
You know the day destroys the night, night divides the day. Break on
through to the other side! Break on through to the other side!
EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE, makes a man healthy, wealthy
and wise (Plato, The Republic). I have no money, so maybe there is
something in that. But I'm still not going to bed early -- and you can't
make me, not you nor Plato nor Ben Franklin nor your whole darn
philosophical gang. In the first place, I have a brain that does not start
working properly until about 10 p.m., and if I went to bed at a normal
hour, I would never get anything done or have a single bright thought.
Second, staying up late, even all night, is something I do well and with a
certain pride, as you might be good at macramé or water-skiing. It has not
always been easy; it took practice and coffee and years of failing to stay
up all night every New Year's Eve, the one day in the year I was allowed
By my senior year of high school, I
had mastered the art. Back then, and for some years after, the all-nighter
was almost entirely an expression of freedom: We owned our time. We owned
the nighttime. What I did with those wee hours -- watching the Late Show,
writing letters, hanging out in the Copper Penny and making a vanilla Coke
and English muffin last an impossibly long time (later it was Canter's
with a kasha knish) -- was not as important as just being awake and at
liberty in a world, or at any rate a hemisphere, of mostly sleeping
people. Squares! Bores! Slumberers! Nowadays, however, while it is common
to find me up at 2 a.m., leafing through a meaningless magazine or moving
stacks of things from this place to that, if I'm still awake at 5:30 a.m.,
which I am right now, it's because I'm working. I have a paper due.
When I see the dawn arrive under such colors, it's with a sense more of
dismay than accomplishment. I know I can stay up all night. That's
why I don't have to.
Unless I have to.
THERE ARE PEOPLE -- PEOPLE IN THIS VERY HOUSE, even --
who can't wait to go to bed, and there are people who resist going to bed.
The go-to-bedders of the world also tend, in my limited but I feel
confident in saying scientific experience, to be
get-out-of-bedders, where the morning is concerned, while the
stay-up-laters tend perhaps to overcompensate for their bed-resistance
once they're in. If I don't much like going to sleep, I love going back
to sleep; the morning seems to me the only time you can actually
appreciate sleeping, drifting in and out of awareness, from dream to real
world and back again, relishing that just another five minutes --
and the just another another five minutes -- feeling. (At night
it's just, you know, turn out the lights and snooze.) If I could find a
way to be asleep in the morning without going to sleep at night, that
would be the bee's knees.
take a Sidney Freud to recognize that the desire to linger beneath the
covers with the day in full cry may be taken to indicate a
stay-in-the-womb sort of personality, and that what lies behind not
wanting to go to bed is the fear of death, which is also the fear of
letting go. And there is also the fear of being seen drooling. I am
probably afflicted by all these things in some way -- the drool thing for
sure -- but I can surrender to the void almost as easily as the next guy.
(It is not dying.) It's sleep itself that seems strange to me, its
equipment and mechanics and customs -- the fact that everybody does it,
and especially the fact that I do it without knowing how I do it.
(I don't imagine this is a widespread
Not that I don't find
occasional satisfaction in getting horizontal after a hard day of
verticality. I understand the need for sleep, but understanding a thing is
not the same as liking it, and it is sad to think, given how little time
we get between the more thorough forms of unconsciousness, that something
like a third of every life is spent in dull slumber. (To sleep is
perchance to dream, and perchance I do, but not so I remember -- certainly
not often or well enough to make sleep time fun -- and anyway, dreams are
not "real," whatever the psychedelic hippies and head shrinkers say.)
Sometimes I think it would be great not to have to sleep at all, thereby
effectively extending my practical life span by some 50 percent, or
perhaps I'd sleep but only on special occasions. I'd throw a slumber party
and . . . sleep at it. Meanwhile, I do my best to snatch back bits of my
life from out of the arms of Morpheus -- I'm eight hours ahead of the game
this week alone. All right!
fucking tired, though.
Illustration by Hadley