“An Awakening of Sorts”

Annabelle H., Contributor

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1:07 am NYC

Typical Tuesday night. I couldn’t sleep again, which was my version of normal. With my heels in my hand, I left my “friends” and the club early and trudged back home. I had to finish a presentation before work tomorrow. This presentation was potentially huge for me — it could mean that I would actually have the opportunity to publish a story. I had been dreaming about this for a long while, and that dream just might become a reality. My job is great, it’s all that I hoped it would be—when I was five, that is. Every time I pick up a copy of a book I had been working on, I flip to the Special Consideration page and find my name Deirdre Carro. I edit the books and I get my name slapped on the final copy, but I’ve never seen my name on the cover of a book.

The next night at 9pm exactly, I decided to hit the sack early so that I could wake up and practice the presentation of my story idea. I got into my PJ’s, my furry cow slippers, hell—I even did a “Calming, Soothing, Moisturizing” green face mask, hoping that I would fall asleep earlier than my occasional 11 pm bedtime. Sometimes…well, most of the time, I’m up much later than that. I’m what you would call a night owl—partying from 11pm to 3am every night, club after club, bar after bar. None of it means all that much to me, but I simply don’t know what I’d do with myself if I wasn’t doing all that. I love editing books and helping others achieve their dreams of becoming a published author, but it doesn’t make me feel alive. Very few things make me feel alive. Most of the time, I’m just holding onto the whisper of a thought that I could change my reality.

I find solace in the dark, as long as it’s filled with the brilliance of club lights, and the free flowing beer, and the music beating so hard I can feel it spark every fiber of my body. The people dancing around me feel it too. Their fists pump in the air, their bodies hang on one another as their hearts pulse in rhythm to the music. Their carefree rave with a shimmy and a whirl and a twirl electrifies everything in me. But, it is only in the lit darkness of a swanky club surrounded by a thousand other nocturnal humans that I feel alive. I know we are all chasing the same thing.

You see, nighttime actually scares me. When I was five years old, I used to think that there were three witches who lived in the shadows on the wall. I used to think that that they were trying to kill me. Who’s to say they weren’t? Each night, after my mom tucked me in, I curled up underneath the blanket, and pulled my toes in so that they didn’t dangle over the edge of the mattress. I used to think that nothing could penetrate the protective bubble that a blanket provided. With a better understanding, I now know that the witches I used to be afraid of don’t exist. But that fear has morphed into something far more wicked than any witch ever could’ve been. I have a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out), so much so that I have had anxiety attacks over the feeling of a void in my life. It started in my chest like a black hole eating away at my oxygen supply and slowly but surely grew and grew. It continued eating away at my chest, gnawing at all of my insecurities until they were broken wires in my brain, unconnected and frenzied. It ended with me in the hospital, in a bed, all alone, knowing that there was something in the world happening that I was missing out on.

That Wednesday night, before bed, I shed the moisturizing mask and downed a glass of chilled water. I was unexplainably calm—even though I knew something in the world was happening that I wasn’t there for—I felt at ease and okay with it. I slipped into bed in one fell swoop, curling my legs toward my chest, no toes over the edge of the mattress, just like when I was a kid. Then, I clicked off the lamp and brought the blanket around my body. With my breath growing ever slower, my eyelids began to droop soft like a feather sinking to the ground.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My eyelids flashed open to a bright white light and the blurs of minty green colored people and pale grey colored people and white and blue colored people rushing around me, making noises that I just couldn’t comprehend. The only thing I knew at the moment was that the blurs were focused on me. A charge of electricity surged through every fiber of my being as the colored blurs scrambled ever faster around the room. The blurred, rushing colors were but a storm of my own doing. But that moment of victory had to be chucked aside because my cranium throbbed like the heavy club beats I was so used to hearing. This time I just wished that they’d stop. As my consciousness floated back to the surface, the blurs turned into doctors and the sounds bouncing from wall to wall became clearer. I heard hurried bits of medical jargon whizzing across the room that was full of nods and rushed hand gestures. With time, I began to make sense of the blurs and the quick movements and the rushed, hushed voices. But I could not strain my brain any longer. I gave in to the quiet sleep threatening to overtake my body. My eyelids came crashing down, shutting out the world around me, if only for a moment.

I woke up in a different room, a quiet pale green room, with a heated blanket and IV juice pumping through my veins. After a few minutes, a hefty nurse strode in with a big well-I’ll-be-darned-smile on her face after she saw me inspecting her. She froze for a second, and watched me like I was a wild animal on the verge of attack. After a quick moment, the switch clicked in her and she whipped her arms out wide and thumped over to my bed engulfing me in the security of her tight embrace, cheering about how happy she was that I was awake! After that, she left to grab the doctor and I was left alone to think.

The doctor, a shorter man with greying hair, walked in smiling at me with one thick eyebrow inquisitively raised. His smile feigned pleasant surprise. He sat down slowly and quietly on the edge of the bed like a friend talking to a friend, but instead, talked to me like I was a maimed puppy. He explained that I had had a dangerous sleepwalking experience in which I had unconsciously wandered to the Brooklyn Bridge at 1:08 am Wednesday night and jumped off, trying to kill myself. He went on to say that I was so very fortunate that a man named Harry had been walking his dog near the bridge, saw me jump, and dove in to save me. If not for him, I would have been floating away, and might not have been found for a little while.

I sat quietly for a moment while the doctor stared at me. The hum of machines faded to grey and I was left with my thoughts. Why would I try to kill myself?

I looked back to the doctor and stared at his thick eyebrows where a hair was so long it had started curling over the others. “Why did I try and…you know…”

His eyes grew soft at my whispered words. “Well, Deidre, I can’t answer that question. Only you would know the answer to that.”

“Oh, okay, I see.”

“Could you answer a few questions for me?”

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure”

“How many hours do you sleep a night, on average?”

“Probably like 5. You know with my job, connections are everything, so I usually go out at night during the week and…make connections.”

“Ahhh, I see. Do you consume alcohol often?”

“Yes, I’ll have a few drinks when I go out, but nothing ever crazy. I know my limit.”

“Are you stressed?”

“Not usually, no.”

“Were you stressed the other night when you sleep walked to the bridge?”

“I had a big presentation the next morning, but I felt calm about it all. Wait! The other night?!”

“Yes, Deidre, the incident occurred two nights ago. You’ve been sleeping very heavily since then. Last night, you were sleepwalking again, nothing big, you just got up and sat in the chair next to your bed. We’ve had a nurse keeping an eye on you around the clock.”

“Wow. Okay…”

“Sleepwalking is commonly triggered by sleep deprivation, alcohol, and extreme stress. It can be caused by all three of these, or only one of them. And what it sounds like to me is that you don’t lead a sleep-healthy lifestyle. So, here’s what we’re going to do. The most important thing for you to do here is to rewrite your sleep life. You need to avoid or even stop going out and partying till the crack of dawn every night. It’s just not healthy…..”

His voice faded out into the background and I got lost in my thoughts again. So, this means no partying, well how will I ever have any fun? This isn’t fair.

He eventually came to the realization that I wasn’t paying attention anymore, so he finished talking, then got up and walked out saying something about how he’d come back later and talk, if I was feeling up to it.

In response, I rolled over onto my side facing the wall.

When I woke up, the nurses were pulling out dinner trays from people’s rooms and the lights in the hallway had been dimmed, so it must’ve been closer to night time. I sat up and dialed the nurse to ask if I could get some food, or at least some jello. After a few, a nurse came in with some jello and crackers, saying that I should take it easy.

Bored out of my mind, I read a magazine and flipped through the TV channels, but nothing suited my fancy. I craved some human connection, but I didn’t really have any friends who would care and my family lived days away. Luckily, a nurse came in and asked if I wanted some company, but she wasn’t asking for herself. The guy who saw me jump was there and wanted to make sure I was okay. She said that he’s been trying to get in to see me the past two days but that I had been asleep.

Of course I accepted. Any company was better than no company.

When he walked in, I had to do a double take. His luscious strawberry-blond hair paired with his wild green eyes was an insane combination that reeled me in. Aside from all that, he was simply stunning. The thick navy sweater and tan khakis was positively striking on him. I could not peel my eyes off of him. When he walked toward me, smiling, I noticed his crooked teeth.

In a saucy British accent, he said, “Hi, Deirdre, I’m Harry. I was the one who rescued you.”

Now, I just sat there, pretty much dumbfounded. THAT’s the guy who saved me!? Is this freaking for real? And I was knocked out the whole time?

I shook his hand, suddenly becoming totally self aware of my current state of attractiveness. If Harry was into hospital gowns, knotted hair, un-deodorized armpits, general stinkiness, and girls without makeup on, then we were in business. He didn’t seem totally appalled by me, which was a start. He actually seemed genuinely concerned about me, which was cute in itself and was only made cuter when his eyebrow cocked upwards as he asked me how I was feeling.

We sat up talking for a little bit and played some checkers, which I won thanks to Harry’s general suckiness at the game.

He stood up, leaving an imprint on the pile of blankets at the end of my bed. He said he had a great time but he should head home before it gets too late. Right before he left, he wrote his number on the corner of a magazine splayed out on my bedside table, and told me to give him a call if I ever needed to talk or wanted to get together.

The next day, I was cleared to leave. The nurse had left a bag with my heels and the shiny silver sequined dress that I had been wearing the other night on my bedside table. Next to the bag was a pair of sweatpants, an oversized college t-shirt, and a hoodie. A sticky note was left on the pile, “I didn’t want you going home in a dirty dress. You can keep these, no worries. -Harry”

When I got downstairs the doorman hailed me a cab. I got in quietly allowing the daily newscast to fill the uncomfortable silence between me and the cabbie. I came back to my apartment, just as I left it, an organized mess. The next few days, I got my life back in order and began sleeping on a more regimented schedule, making sure I was living a “sleep-healthy lifestyle”.

A week after the whole incident, I was cleaning up my kitchen after breakfast and found the magazine with Harry’s number under a stack of hospital papers. I sat for a few minutes staring at it. Should I call him? Is that weird? Oh shoot, am I too late? Well…he did leave me those clothes…I should just call and thank him.

I went out for a jog, and 30 minutes later came back to the magazine, staring at the number. Eventually I drummed up enough mojo to call him —

“Hello?” a high pitched girly voice bounced. Oh shit. Of course he has a girlfriend.

“Uhm. Hi, who’s this? I’m looking for Harry.”

“This is his sister. Harry’s in the shower. Can I take a message?”

“Oh I’m sorry! Could you just tell him that Deidre called?”

“Why of course! Is that it?”

“Yep thanks!”

“No worries. Bye!”

Twenty minutes later, I got a call from Harry and we set up a date to go try the new sushi restaurant down the street from where he saved me. The rest is history.

We’ve been together three years, and each year we find ourselves on the same bridge right around the time that it happened, back where it all started. Sometimes I look back on it and think about how crazy it all is. I should have died that night, but I guess it wasn’t what the Fates had in mind for me.

With Harry, I don’t need the hubbub of life, or the endless slew of clubs, drinking, or one night stands. He’s enough. He fills the void. I think I could love him and really, truly love him. He makes me feel the vibrancy of life that I craved. I always believed in soulmates, but I never thought that there was one out there for me. Until now.

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