You’ve heard of sleep debt, that phenomenon they’re not sure is really even a thing, not sure that you can really make up those late night/early mornings by lying Saturday splayed, old Air France sleep mask girded over eyes and the clock ticking elevenward, like a newly-minted MD chucking chunky paychecks at Sallie Mae. The research is inconclusive, but hey, I certainly feel better after a lie-in so I’ll go ahead and put nature over Nature, this time. What I’m wondering about is waking debt: trying to make up the slow bleeding-away of things that you wanted to do in great gasps of leisure on a day off.
It reminds me of what is probably the most terrifying prediction for the afterlife: that one where you relive your entire life except it’s lumped into categories. Fourteen years on the toilet (five of which are spent clutching an old, steam-crenellated New Yorker), three years on the L train, six fucking months putting on eyeliner again and again and again. But, horror nonwithstanding, I still find myself trying to round up and recapture the banalities I’ve already lost.
Thinking of all of the days that I didn’t want to get out of bed, I wake up and loll for another half-hour in bodyhot sheets with only what’s in within arm’s reach to amuse me: lip balm, iPhone, glass of water going small-bubbled and stale, perversely denying myself some of the nicest bits of rising, like refrigerator-cold water or tea, all for repaying this “waking debt”. I’m left kind of headachy and parched, the hollow victory of someone who’s won a game against an opponent who never particularly cared.
This weekend, I painted my nails with five different kinds of polish, affixing tiny & gratuitous gems, as if to desperately shovel those minutes into a hole I dug when I used a gross lab razor blade to pare off a tattered half-moon of bare index-nail, the metallic shock of blood in the mouth when gnawing foxlike on a ripped cuticle. I made corned beef & veg, like the pinkly simmering brisket might erase that night I ate chipotle mayonnaise and capers on Ryvita for dinner, like some existential accountant with neat French cuffs and wire rims is drawing neat black lines through entries in an imaginary ledger.
It’s not that these things are unpleasant, that I ask you for pity (o! alas I have been left only with a reasonably-cool manicure, a bowl of delicious potatoes and a faint metaphysical uneasiness), just that I wonder if there’s any benefit to this truncated version of trying to reclaim lost youth. It’s both dumb and hopeful, this strange little rebellion against time: time, which might be the most arbitrary and the most true of any measurement we’ll ever encounter.