Last night at around 4 a.m. I started awake and couldn't get back to sleep again. Patrick was snoring and although on the very rare occasion that he does snore I am not above knocking peevishly on the headboard or even poking him in the ribs to get him to stop (which he does without waking - it's great), I wanted him completely undisturbed today. He's at the tail end of a week-long flu and every minute of sleep is precious get-better fuel which it would be cruel to curtail.
I tried to settle back down. After all, Patrick was actually being relatively quiet and I was pretty tired. But I am a very light sleeper and it just wasn't happening. I think the white noise machine has helped me so much because it's masked the majority of the tiny little creaks and chirps that had me tossing and turning all night before. But last night it wasn't enough.
Our next door neighbor has the world's loudest and most obnoxious Harley Davidson, one that even the Pope couldn't love. Our neighbor also leaves for work at 6:00 every morning, so it's quite the wake-up call. I can hear the vociferous dragon roar of the engine, obviously, but things had gotten to the point where I could also hear the teensy ding of his key every morning approximately 1.5 seconds before he started the engine beast. That click would ring out to me in my deep, pre-dawn sleep, across a driveway and through a closed window, and I would be instantly maniacally alert and waiting for the outrageous barrage of noise, like a foxhound who hears, unmistakeably, the dry crack of a stick broken by the hapless step of a red paw in the suspended second before the hunt begins. I swear to the gods that motorcycle and this ensuing ritual of apprehension has taken years off my life.
So I knew I wasn't getting back to sleep without taking some action. I somehow recalled a pair of neon orange earplugs, brilliantly soft and pliable, sitting in a clear tube on top of my dresser since last March. I stumbled over in the dark and fumbled with the various music boxes, necklace towers and dry cleaning piles for several minutes, wondering if I'd dreamt up the earplugs entirely, in all their foam rubber glory. My hand closed on the end of the tube and a minute later I was back in bed, pressing the ends of the plugs down into little foam tubelets.
In my ears they went. It's so strange how your hearing fades when you put these in. You'd imagine losing the faculty bit by onrushing bit as they expand. But it's more like nothing happens at all and then POP, you're 90% temporarily deaf. It's like in the movies when a car arcs off a bridge into the cold, choppy river. There's a moment when the world is panicked and amplified and then it's all slow-bubbling water. That's how these earplugs work. For a second I could hear my heart thumping in my ears as if it had suddenly switched places with my brain, and then just as suddenly my heartbeat was echoing far, far away, in another room down a long corridor, and I and sound and my heart were swallowed in darkness.
It still took me another forty minutes or so to fall asleep. The three times I popped out one of the earplugs experimentally, Patrick wasn't making a peep.