>Mo Leaba: A Derivative Account of Child-Induced Insomnia

by Brendan Strong

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I am in my own room. It is where I live now. With my wife and two children. I am sleeping, or trying to. My children, whom I assume to have read Beckett are punishing us. Perhaps for bringing them to this damnable world, but who knows? This has been going on for weeks now.
I don’t know how it started. They say when you dream, your brain processes all your memories – taking your RAM and dumping it to storage for later retrieval. Except we haven’t had any sleep. One or other of these lucky ladies will wake. And when they do, crashing from their dreams into the silent dark of their rooms, they will scream. Scream!
Then, my wife or I will run. Run! To try and settle the unsettled child, who will continue with sobs. We didn’t always wait up all night for one of them to wake. But when we didn’t wait up – the one to wake would surely start the other.
Whichever one it is, if she doesn’t wake the other, we will bring her into our room to settle her there with hugs and bottles and all the other weapons in our young-parent armoury of love.
If it is Sunshine, she will clutch her baby Susie, fall asleep in three minutes. With somnolent shifts, she will move to a horizontal position, kicking one parent in the head, while the other’s hair is pulled and tangled. We get little sleep, sore heads and stiff backs.
If it is Starlight, she will be true to her name, shining on through the night. She will not settle in our bed. She believes it to be playtime. We curse ourselves and the attention we give her.  She gurgles and giggles and climbs on us and stands up there in the middle of the bed. We have a series of minor heart attacks as she rages against the brightening of the light – when – as day breaks and the earth wakes – she will decide to sleep. When I have to go to work. When my wife has to look after Sunshine and her little cousin, Tinysmiles. But these are distractions – work, care. These are things we do when we are not in our room, which is where we live now.
At first we told ourselves we’ve been through this before. The sleeplessness. The cries that wake us in the night. But then, we realise, back then, we only knew half of it. There are two now.
We are insensate. The world is inexorable. We are not in it, nor of it. We do not touch it or move it. We are ideas. Words waiting to be said. Stories waiting to be told. We cannot escape it. Our children have taken our place.
They are in our room. It is where they live now. They turn us and roll us and command us. The progeny discipline the parents. A new order.
“Something must be done” I tell my wife. She looks at me hopefully, like I am going to do something. But I cannot. There is darkness and silence, but no sleep. One child kicking my face, the other dancing in the space between my wife and I. So much in the spaces between light and dark. So much in the space between words and actions. But something must be done. Someone should do something.
“Perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” (Beckett)
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