Talking in My Sleep: Cigarette Ashes and Snow Cones

There's a note in my phone that mentions the song "Closing Time." I assume I should be listening to it (hence the above song title). I'm playing it through my head, slowly, chord by chord. I'm also watching the cat, seven feet away, who awkwardly and accurately licks one of her back legs in the hallway.

I sigh. The cat glares at me, a disturber of the peace. "Finish your whiskey or beer," I say to her, "Because you're going on the porch soon. It's nigh-nigh time."

She licks her lips. Blinks. I stick my tongue out at her.
Why would I mention "Closing Time?" It makes me think of the nights I spent at the bars after work, the nights when--at 3:00--the methodical playing of said stereotypical song would begin. It makes me think of the '90s, and of my brother, a teenager in psychedelic dress shirts from the now-defunct Gadzooks. It makes me think of Wednesday nights at the bowling alley, when--at the end of every session--the song is blasted through the speakers. Gather up your jackets, move it to the exits, it instructs us. In other words, "Get your ass out of the bowling alley so the managers can make it home before Iowa Public Television stops its broadcasts."

"Closing Time" does not make me think about talking in my sleep but, alas, that is what the note in my phone proclaims. Therefore, I must mention it...

I talk in my sleep. Not a lot, admittedly, but it happens often. Usually, it happens in that state between sleep and awake, when I replay the day's events, but dreamily think of hard-boiled eggs or purple chickens or fireworks or dolphin-infested lakes. I'll softly moan, murmuring myself into a deeper breathing pattern. My body will twitch, my eyes flutter. I'll mutter and whine and ... start whisper-talking.

I do not hear myself.

I rely on the boyfriend's retelling, which usually occurs only a few minutes after said whisper-talking. I manage to wake myself up somehow; I'm confused, sleepy, giggly. He tells me what I was saying, while simultaneously fighting back laughter. "You told me you were in Mario World," he says, "because there were green pipes all around."

"That's nice, Sweetie," I'll say, trying to go back to sleep.

"You also said something about cigarette ashes and snow cones."

A laugh will sputter out of my lips. "What did I say?" I'll ask, struggling for full consciousness. We'll giggle for a few minutes, and he'll try to remember each sentence, each nonsensical thing I said. I'll write it down later, wait until morning to read my utterances. I'm Sleep Talkin' Chick.

The first "recorded" instance of my talking happened when I was about nine. I was up in the morning, as usual, getting ready for school. As I passed through the kitchen to get a drink, my mother asked me if I had had any strange dreams the night before. "Noooo," I said slowly, pouring myself a glass of lemonade.

"Okay, well, you were just talking in your sleep, then."

"Was I?" I was surprised. I couldn't remember any dreams that I had had.

"Yes you were. You were talking about a ham sandwich.
'No, sandwich, I don't want to eat you.'" She raised her voice to a scared whine. "'No. You can't make me eat you!'"

Needless to say, my dream about processed swine dually wrapped in Wonder Bread is still a family joke.

Unsurprisingly, I continue to say ridiculous things. I uttered several sentences while on vacation in Indiana, for example, the first of which Hans and I dub the "smashing bee incident." (Background information: womanly cramps were plaguing me even in slumber.)


Me: There are ... there are ... there are bees stinging my tummy.
Hans: (patiently) Those are cramps, Sweetheart. They're not bees.
Me: No, they're bees. Bees are stinging.

At this point, I place my hands--palms out--on his abdomen. I move my hands back and forth, pressing, slapping, kneading.

Hans: Sweetie, what are you doing?
Me: I'm smashing bees.


Another one of my recent favorites is also from Indiana, when he and I shunned ourselves to the three-car garage, where it was quiet and dark and mildewy. I had nestled under the sheets and blankets (which I routinely steal) and had begun whining almost immediately.


Me: (sounding desperate) They're ... they're out of squid ink!
Hans: ......... what Sweetie?
Me: They're out of squid ink and ... and they're surrounded in Dresden. They can't write letters without ink!
Hans: Here, Sweetie. I, I ... I brought more ink. Here's more squid ink!
--a few seconds pass by--
Me: (accusingly) You don't belong here.
Hans: Why not?
Me: Because you have a weird haircut.


I truthfully do not remember saying any of the above; I simply remember being told what I said. I find my mutterings quite entertaining, and, in the morning, I try to piece together what could possibly make me think of squid ink (remembering an Italian risotto that uses cuttlefish ink to blacken the rice), snow cones (a carnival-esque festival I attended), and Dresden (still wondering about that one).

The last time I spoke in my sleep was two weeks ago, when my friends from Indiana were visiting. We had been bowling that evening, though we did not stay long enough to hear "Closing Time." Ironically, however, Hans and I heard it on a radio station as we drove home from my friends' hotel.

The car rolled up and over the dark, Iowa hills, and we watched for deer. He sang, I mouthed the words. I know who I want to take me home. Hans looked over at me, winked. I smiled, but still breathed a sigh of melancholy; my friends would leave tomorrow, and I did not know when I would see them next. I missed them already, and I hadn't even said goodbye. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end ... the guitar chords faded as we coasted into town, dead and dull from the heat.

An hour later, in the soft, silken sheets, I cuddled up next to Hans and sweetly drifted off to sleep.

It wasn't until the next morning when he told me that, in the dark, I had whispered into his neck --not nonsense--but a raw, vulnerable truth. How do you tell your friends you love them?

"You just do, Sweetie. You just tell them."

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