There's this feeling I've had twice in my life. I think it can only really climb over my limbs in the night, because then you have to stop doing, but your brain can't fully man the wheel and start thinking enough for the awfulness to go away. The things that you witnessed in the daylight were not right; they hardly seemed real in the way that the Grand Canyon hardly seems real. In these times, my body feels an icy ache, and I can't even fathom what falling asleep might feel like. It's hard to breathe, but I don't worry about not breathing because I can't worry about anything. I'm too sad to worry. My brain searches in a wild-and-exhausted scrabble for something that feels solid, and for something to slow the thinking. Even the floor of a hospital room is solid, because you're in a place where people do things. Not many people really really think in a hospital. The mystery of sickness and pain suffocates a little, and the wasted suffering makes it hard to think, and the flourescent lighting snuffs out the real thinking that's left.
When I first felt this feeling, John Mayer sang a song called "Dreaming with a Broken Heart" that was perfect. John Mayer needs to wash his hair and probably make his bed. He's a mess. But his song was just how I felt. Well-played, plaintive piano is how this feeling sounds:
"When you're dreamin with a broken heart, the wakin' up is the hardest part.
You roll outta bed, and down on your knees.
And for a moment you can hardly breathe
wondering was she really here? Is she standing in my room?
No she's not. 'Cause she's gone, gone, gone, gone, gone."
He even repeats it just right. When someone's gone, gone, horribly, awfully gone or changed or hurting, you have to repeat really simple things, and still expect them not to make sense until the chill slinks away and you forget the enormity of this so that you can live and brush your teeth and read your Shakespeare homework again. The first time I felt this feeling, I sat on the back porch and told the dog the simple things that I couldn't understand. It felt good that Marshall the Alaskan Malamute could "get" them in a dog way, but no more. I felt like I was only a few steps removed, understanding all of this in a human way, but no more.
In a time like this, you don't even want to wish it were tomorrow, because more of this wakefulness seems overwhelming. What are you to do?
Do I have to feel asleep with roses in my hand?
Would you get them if I did?
No, you won't.
'Cause you're gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.
(John wrote the song about a woman he loved, but I definitely pretend that it applies beyond his original context. I got the practice when he came out with "Your Body is a Wonderland" my freshman year of college, and I pretended the whole time that he wrote it about a communicative couple in a committed marital relationship. So Theology-of-the-Body of you, Mr. Mayer. Well done.)
Wondering could you stay, my love? Would you wake up by my side?
No she can't. 'Cause she's gone, gone, gone, gone.