Light Ponderings at 5AM by Marty McCahill
It’s a Sunday night and I can’t sleep. I stay in my basement with a minimal amount of lights on. I change some bulbs on desk lamps that I have strewn all over my basement to different colored lights. I make it so each room of the basement has a different color. Where my guitars and other instruments are I have as the green room. The computer room has been turned into the red room. The fitness room has been turned into the blue room. And the bathroom just has a nightlight burning, so I’ll call it the white room. I try lying down on a couch in the green room listening to music from my mp3 player and trying to fall asleep. Once 3 AM rolls around I give up on sleep and decide that, as long as I can’t sleep I should be doing something… something, anything, hopefully it would be productive. I try picking up a guitar and I see if my fingers want to shape something new. After about 15 minutes I notice that I’m just playing some of the same old riffs that I always play and decide that musical inspiration isn’t hitting me tonight. I venture out to the fitness room, the blue room. The treadmill never looks inviting but I know if I can get past the first four minutes of running I’ll be able to stay on there for a couple of miles and get a good work out in. I start at a slow pace as I fumble with my music finding some tunes that would help me not pay attention to the fact that I’m doing something that my body doesn’t want to be doing right now. Right now it’s crying out for sleep. A mirror looms in front of the treadmill and I can make out my bluish figure. I used to be so skinny, but now my shoulders jut out making it official that not only am I a full grown man, but I’m also a force to be reckoned with. I look at my arms in the blue light. They hold scars of past addictions and regretful mistakes. I was a kid when I made those mistakes but my adult frame now has to live with the built in reminders at how out of control I used to be. As my arms become more muscular and my shoulders broaden I barely notice those scars. Right now, I feel like I do have some semblance of control in my life. I’ve reached the four-minute mark and feel like I could run a marathon. It happens every time I run. The first four minutes, all I can think of is how I want to stop and that my body wasn’t made for this torment. Then, after four minutes I feel invincible until I get to about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes I just run until I reach a good number mile wise or the song I’m listening to ends.
It’s 4 AM now and I’ve just finished running 4.5 miles. I get a fleeting sense of accomplishment. There’s still more I could do though, I just know it. I see if anything has to be cleaned but my anal daytime self has made it so that there isn’t a speck of debris to be dealt with. I head to the white room and open up the medicine cabinet. There are some blue sleeping pills I could take but I’m not sure I want sleep just yet. I have a full bottle of Xanax that I haven’t broken into yet. Xanax will make me sleepy enough for an hour-long nap, and then I can usually spring back to life with a raspberry-blue-energy drink. I take a couple of the tiny white pills and jump into the shower. I cover my chest in manly scented body wash. I get the stink of the 4.5-mile run off of my skin and down the drain. I feel the comfort of the Xanax as it dissolves under my tongue and into my stomach. What this tiny white pill does once it is in my stomach, I don’t know. All I know is that it makes me feel happy and a little bit sleepy/dreamy. After the shower I dry off and grab a small handful of the little white pills chased with a Dixie cup of water. If I’m going to be using I might as well get the most out of the experience. I put on some clean clothes and move to the red room. The red room is where I usually can escape for the longest amount of time. The computer opens up whole worlds of thoughts and ideas. With all the social networking sites that now exist I can’t help but delve into my past. I often wonder what motivates people to disclose so much of their personal lives to the Internet. I think most people don’t even realize how many billions of people have access to their personal photo albums. I start feeling sentimental and yearn for old comfortable feelings. I always do this to myself. I torture my eyes with the past. I like to think of it as motivation for the next day. A small mantra, or idea, in the back of my head saying, “This is what you were. This is an example of how happy you can be”. I examine my current self and can’t fathom how I could possibly ever be like that person that I was in all of those photographs. Then I look at the other people in some of the pictures. People that I used to make happy. When was the last time I even saw some of these people? Jesus! It’s reaching 5 AM and my eyes are heavy but determined. I head to the white room to swallow some more white pills. I get back to the red room and I know I shouldn’t but I do it anyway. I hack into my first girlfriend’s account. Her passwords have always been a combination of the name of her childhood cat and the current street that she lives on. She told me this years and years ago and I still remember it. This is the first time I’ve hacked into her account at 5 AM. I’ve done it before at 2 AM and felt guilty about it and walked away without any snooping. But, this time it was 5 AM and I wanted something. I needed something… evidence or a relic that tells me that I made the right choice by not falling asleep tonight and pushing myself to stay awake. I find a photo album of her most recent vacation with her soon to be husband. This still irks me. We haven’t dated in years and I’ve had a number of relationships since her but she was my first love. The girl I will always measure every other girl I meet up against. And now, she will be forever unavailable to me as she ties the knot with somebody that I’m sure isn’t half the person that I am. I pan through her latest vacation photos and something seems familiar. Like, way too familiar. It’s pictures of her with her fiancé but an awful sense of déjà vu courses threw me with a dizzying effect. I run to the green room and dig through some boxes till I come up with a physical photo album that I take back to the red room. It’s the album of her and I when we were both 17 and in love. We had just lied to our parents about a vacation that we were taking. We claimed that we were going to a friend’s beach house with a whole bunch of people but instead we went on a secret vacation to some small town in Northern Wisconsin that had a cheap hotel. We had a disposable camera with us that we passed back and forth taking pictures of each other as we toured through the scenic riverfront town; twenty-seven photos of the perfect vacation. Now, here, years later and with some other dude she’s taking the same photos! I hold up the aged photo of us embraced in a kiss, a close-up photo that I took with my right arm outstretched catching our heads together with the river in the back round. I hold this picture against the computer screen that shows the newest version of this photo. Her, with her haircut short and him dressed in a suit and the back round this time is a scenic European lake. I’m being replaced! It’s the same exact photo just I’m no longer the male character and the setting is different. This isn’t the only example of memory replacement. I count twelve more photos that have far too much in common to just be a mere coincidence. Did she knowingly seek out to replace our memories? Or was this just a sub-conscious act of hers to get back those old feelings of falling in love for the first time? I go back to the white room and finish off the bottle of Xanax. The happy feeling that they usually give me is replaced with discontent and disbelief. In the back of my head I always pictured the two of us getting back together. I wasn’t sure how or when but my mother always said that, “if it truly is love, then it will find a way.” Well, this latest evidence is telling me that love can be replaced. Memories can be squashed out and that I can become expendable. While I pray for a blue morning to wash this feeling away, I fall into a deep Xanax induced sleep.