My introduction to insomnia happened when I was ten. I had the Simon and Garfunkel song, “Cecilia,” playing in my head all night. In my head. All night. I still feel anxious when I hear that song; it was one of the longest nights of my life. And unfortunately, that night turned into about a year-long debacle.
So, why would a song by one of the greatest singer-song-writer pairs ever throw a little girl into a year of fear and no sleep?
As it turns out, it wasn’t the song, it was the timing. You see, my older sisters had just gotten their drivers’ licenses, along with permission to haul their younger siblings to the local drive-in movie, sans parents. No parents meant no censorship, and teenaged deciders meant scary movies. Lots of them. I’m not sure if that was the summer of vampires, werewolves, and zombies, but I swear those were the only movies we saw.
We took hot-dogs from home, wrapped in foil, mustard on the buns. I was always stuck in the back seat with my brother, who, to me, always had funky breath anyway, and when he ate mustard? Well, he had funky mustard breath.
So, starting with that first night, probably after hearing “Cecilia” on the radio, it stuck in my head – and believe me, she was breaking my heart, shaking my confidence daily. That night, lying awake, I could smell putrid mustard breath as werewolves lurked just outside my window, vampires salivating in every shadow. It didn’t help that we lived on a Navajo Indian reservation in Gallup, New Mexico. I’d heard legends of the Native American versions of werewolves and just knew that increased my odds of being mauled right there in my tiny bed.
This was one of only two times in my many childhood dwellings that I had my own room. We lived in a single-wide trailer with two itty-bitty rooms, assigned to my brother and me, and an elevated room over us, where my sisters slept together. Yep, it just figured that the year I would have sold my soul to bunk with any of my siblings, I was stuck there, alone with my terror. Well, not totally alone; I had two guppies named Liver and Onions, but they weren’t concerned about monsters.
Nightly, I’d creep into my siblings’ rooms, waking them with trembling whispers.
“What now?” They’d respond, annoyed, sleepy.
“I’m scared.” I don’t even know why they continued the conversation. It never changed, nor did the results.
“What are you scared of?” They’d ask, never even opening their eyes.
“Everything!” I’d say emphatically, desperate for someone to let me stay. I’m not sure why I thought I’d be any safer in their beds. I’m pretty sure, in retrospect, that a werewolf or vampire would have preferred a multi-kid-smorgasbord to a one-child snack.
They’d say whatever it took to get rid of me. And thus, I’d go back to my hobbit hole of horror, just as scared…and defeated. And alone.
Needless to say, I was never visited by any of the creatures I feared. I was never visited at all.
As eluded to in previous blog entries (with not-so-shadowy foreshadowing), my siblings were visited by a monster before and after my “year of fear.” But their monster lived right there in our home. He lived in all our other houses too. But he wasn’t as easily sent away as I was. And, unlike my monsters, he was very real.
Once again, I was the lucky one.
Disclaimer: I love Simon and Garfunkel and all their other songs. And in the spirit of inclusion and diversity, I have no prejudices against werewolves (werepeople?), vampires, or zombies.
OK, that’s not true. I’d run over a house to get to a zombie…but that’s a whole ‘nuther blog entry.