Monday, June 28, 2004

Nothing on TV

Something woke me with a start, heart racing with alarm and lights flicking around the edges of my periphery. The hallways of my dream, in which I'd been running just moments before, slowly faded, as the dim and slowly focusing reality of my bedroom insinuated itself back into my consciousness.

I lay there motionless as the dead, willing my mind into full function. Something had awakened me with the cold, metallic shock of alarm that froze me in place. Slowing my breathing to an inaudible level, I reclosed my eyes and took inventory of all the sounds around me. Next to me, my wife slept, breathing slowly in her slightly irregular fashion. An aging plastic alarm clock next to her hummed, the vibrations of its movement amplified by the wood of the cheap box that served as a nightstand. Overhead, the ceiling fan made its regular tick tick tick, as the collected dust on the fan blades threw off its balance and sent it into a gently wobbling orbit. Next to the bed, I could make out the labored breathing of the family dog, unnaturally old and held together by ever-increasing veterinarian visits that had long ago passed the point of kindness. Whatever had awakened me, it hadn't been enough to penetrate the clouds of the old dog's conscious and rouse him from his temporary coma.

Willing myself to focus further into the house, I listened for the boys in their room across the hall. I could hear the breathing of my sons, softly playing point-counterpoint to each other in sleep, just as when awake. The CD of Celtic Lullabyes, played as part of their bedtime ritual had long ago ended, leaving only the faint hissing of the stereo speakers to fill the void.

I visualized the layout of the living room in my mind as I picked out first the clicking of the faux pendulum in the clock on the wall above the oak entertainment center, it's battery-powered swing rubbing against the pressed-wood housing in a regular rhythm. As its batteries became weak, the hourly chime, reproduced by an electronic chip in the back of the clock, would take on a sickly tone, dropping in pitch like the radio from an open window in a passing car. Below it, I could make out a barely liminal high whine that told me that although the satellite receiver had been turned off, the television itself was still on, waiting for a signal. It was an easy thing to miss, fumbling with the overly complex universal remote, while trying to corral the kids into the bathroom to brush teeth and empty bladders in preparation for bed. In the hustle of all that activity and noise, it would have been inaudible, but to my anxiety-sharpened senses in the night's stillness, it was like a coaches whistle. I would have to turn it off if I wanted to get back to sleep, so I'd have to go ahead and get up.

I cracked my eyes open and noted how the the household sounds dwindled immediately into the background. It was as though power had been shifted from the ears to power my newly opened eyes. The lamp in the hallway, left on for the boys to light their way to the bathroom for nightly visits, cast long shadows through the narrow opening of our bedroom door. I glanced at the clock - 2:15 am. "Damn," I thought, "I'll never get back to sleep." Always a light sleeper, I'd learned how to tune out the sounds around me to which my wife was more likely to respond. She could change a diaper in her sleep and not remember it in the morning, but the second I set a foot on the bedroom floor, I may as well put on a pot of coffee and get dressed for work. That foot was on the floor now, as I rubbed my eyes and grumbled to myself about the TV waking me up.

4 Comments:

Blogger Dianne said...

So did you really get up for good at 2:15? That's insane! I did the opposite today - got up when my alarm went off and then decided to turn it off without resetting it to sleep in.

Off-topic... Is the graphic of the head on your blog from a real picture of you? You shave your head now, right?

June 28, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is less a story (mostly because I couldn't really decide where I wanted to go with it) than it is an exercise in descriptive writing. Everybody has at one time or another been suddenly and inexplicably roused from a deep sleep without knowing exactly why. I was attempting to describe the sensation as well as the usual checklist - wife and kids OK, doors locked, dog not staining the carpet.

I had briefly considered having "myself" go back to bed satisfied with my inspection, only to have some boogey-man slip back out from its hiding place and and leave quietly. Since I chose to write from first-person, I couldn't reconcile having the story continue after the narrator left, and I'm too lazy to rewrite the piece in third-person ... yet. I may eventually revisit this exercise and play it out.

June 28, 2004  
Blogger HeadCheese said...

Dang anonymous button.... that WAS me above.

June 28, 2004  
Blogger Dianne said...

Can I change my comment to be from Anonymous so that it's not so obvious how dull-witted I can be? :-) Thanks for the clarification about real stories vs. made up stories. Seeing as how I am missing the creativity gene, I don't understand the whole "imagination" thing that people like you claim to have ;-)

June 28, 2004  

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