The Dream Police should make an arrest. Any night now they should haul away my wife for a series of high crimes and misdemeanors committed for decades. Habitual pillow theft. A petty offense, I suppose. But committed on such a regular basis in our marriage that the cumulative weight of the offenses must amount to a lengthy sentence in a dreamland penitentiary. If we are staying in a hotel room together and I leave the room to get ice at night and come back, she will have gathered both pillows under her head and be sound asleep. I am forced to pry a pillow away from my son Avery if he is there in a twin bed doing his own dual pillow snooze, or I can bundle up some soft shirts and use those as a pillow. I hate to wake her. And I know she could never fall asleep again if I managed to pry away her second ancillary and completely redundant pillow, leaving her with a solitary pillow to aid her slumbers. This is insufficient. One pillow just will not do. I accept that. Grudgingly. If you bundle up a couple t-shirts (about four), you can make do.
One time when she had trouble sleeping, she got a special pillow. It was a perfect pillow designed by a chiropractor with a degree in sleepology. It cost $60. “I love my new pillow,” she said. “Great. It cost enough money, I guess,” I replied. “Could I borrow it some night to see what all the fuss is about?” She paused long enough to make me believe she might be considering it. “No,” she said. We were going on a trip the next day. I packed her special pillow. Because that’s how much I love her. I’m thoughtful like that. We stayed one night at a hotel. We left the next night and came home. It was time for bed. “Where’s my special pillow?” Robyn said. It was sitting on the bed in the hotel room hanging out with the common hotel pillows. I thought of calling the hotel and asking for them to mail back her pillow. I imagined trying to describe the pillow. “It’s like other pillows. Looks just like any other pillow. But this is a special pillow. You don’t understand. It was 60 dollars!” I gave up. Robyn took every pillow on our bed that night. I went into the next room and stole Avery’s second pillow.
But the pillow isn’t really what I wanted to talk about. It’s about going to sleep. And what’s playing in the background. In the early days of our marriage there was just music playing softly. A CD of Sarah Mclaughlin or Keb Mo.Those were simpler times. Then 9/11 happened. It became CNN. Every night. Because in the middle of the night something crazy could happen. You never knew. You couldn’t sleep through such things. You needed to spring into action and report on it. Or at least know about it as soon as humanly possible so you could start planning news coverage and local angles for the next day’s newspaper. CNN is generally fine to sleep to unless there’s a plane crash somewhere in the world. In which case, they lose their minds. And you can’t watch CNN for about twenty-five days because it’s all debris field and prevailing current this and tidal patterns and simulated recreations that. But the worst thing in the world are commercials between the news shows.
Legislators realized that commercials were airing at twice the volume of the regular shows so they made some law that made that illegal. Fine, commercial folks said. They promptly jacked up the amplitude of the signal so that the same effect was achieved without technically violating the law. I read that somewhere. Once. And that’s why I wake up a lot at night as someone is trying to sell me something I don’t want. A new car. A refrigerator. A vacuum. Because I’m smart, I adopted a strategy. As soon as my wife falls asleep, I switch the television to C-Span.
The lovely thing about C-Span is that nothing on there short of impeachment proceedings of a sitting president can hold my attention late at night for more than five minutes. I drift right off. And there’s no commercials. It’s a win-win. Naturally, Robyn hates it. She wakes up for some reason in the middle of the night to a policy debate about interstate highway infrastructure needs. She says the intricate policy debates bleed into her dreams to form wonky nightmares. I can’t imagine.
Unlike CNN, C-Span is light on breaking news. As in, that’s not their thing at all. If the end of the world was suddenly nigh (a fiery giant meteor shower or space alien invasion maybe) C-Span would air a Book Notes interview about an obscure Civil War battle. It’s comforting for those who wouldn’t want to dwell on impending doom but frustrating for those who harbor a notion they need to be aware of everything all the time – like Galactus or the Watcher.
If I fall asleep first, I might wake up to a movie playing on whatever channel Robyn was watching when she fell asleep. Yesterday morning I woke to Fast and Furious. I don’t like to start my day Fast or Furious. Especially at 4:30 a.m. I woke up to Shrek this morning at 4:45 a.m. I changed the channel to C-Span. My mild revenge. Robyn is asleep right now building new superhighways in her own private dreamland. They might need complicated cloverleaf intersections. Maybe they should be six lanes in each direction. Bless her heart.
Postscript: I just found the box for the Brookstone BioSense Plus Sleep Pillow with cool gel technology and pressure-relieving memory foam in the garage. Cost $70. If anyone reading this would like to sleep over, be sure and ask my wife to borrow her new special, sleep-improving pillow. Good luck with that.