Nighttime, for children, is scheduled to the minute. This is when you brush your teeth. This is when your parents read to you. This is when you climb into your covers and they tuck you in. Its the constancy of nighttime rituals that induces sleepiness. When I was little, the sound of the ticking clock in my room would soothe me to sleep. It was the calming repetition that I loved—every single second, without fail, the same sound, the same volume: tick. A soft and monotonous lullaby that lulled my eyes shut in slumber. My nightlight would gleam from my dresser, my stuffed animals would gather around me, my imaginary friends would keep vigil over my drowsy form. And every night, at the same time, there roared a faraway train, distant enough that its call never startled me out of my sleep, but instead punctuated my escape into the dream world. The train told me, “Now you can sleep.” And I did.
The gentle tickings of that clock have been gone for a while, but, last summer, they were replaced by metallic tickings. A small wristwatch sits on my bedside table, and how it manages to produce a sound I could hear a foot a way, I can’t explain. But I hear it, in the silence of my room, in the absence of the train I don’t hear it anymore, for my head hits my pillow too late for that train to run. The sound of the wristwatch does not hold the soothing quality that my old clock had. Its noise is tinny and small. Usually, the tickings are covered by rustling bed sheets—for I can never stop moving—and hazy daydreams—for I can never stop thinking. But some nights are quiet.
Those are the nights when my thoughts have run out of steam and they crash to a stop, the nights when I can only focus on the ceiling above me, the nights when I lie like a statue, in those dark hours of morning, long before the sun can rise. They are nights when my symptoms make an appearance, monsters from the closet. They spin my head in slow, lazy circles, and though I don’t see the room rotating or flipping or breaking apart, I can feel it moving in my skull. There are gentle waves that slosh back and forth inside my head, filling it with pressure and unceasing dizziness. During those types of nights, I fix my eyes on one thing in the room, to make sure everything is stationary, so I can be sure that I am anchored to my bed and will not float away.
It’s the blood inside of me that causes these waves. It pools in my hands, in my feet, in my stomach. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. I can hear the metallic tick with each word of my demon.
The wristwatch is a reminder of a lost summer, days ticking away. Afternoons at my job when I was stuck in bed as other camp employees roamed. Having to leave the camp, three times, for it felt like a carnival sat inside my head and I couldn’t eat. Not coming back the last time, to a place I had spent seven summers at. Weeks at home, moping around, not accomplishing anything. I lie there in bed and listen to that reminder. Sleep escapes me.
But the constancy of the tickings have submerged me before and they can do so again. Every second, without fail, the metallic tick sounds, at the same volume, with the dedication of the streetlamp lighter who was visited by the Little Prince, and the lullaby begins. Sleep takes me. It is in the early hours of morning, before the moon has a chance to set, that I lie awake, but the sun will soon cradle me in its arms of gold and light the sky with a faint blush that promises daytime.