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Insomnia of an Elderly French Designer

Story by Sean Lovelace (Read author interview) September 15, 2007

Insomnia of an Elderly French Designer (#3)

He reached an impasse: a desire to sleep, a fear of sleeping. And always the dull weight, the mind-soreness of the thing. He would lie in bed for hours and name it, a dreadful word game, a listing: Licking the black wall. Damp, I feel damp. I’ve got the serotonin shivers, the blur. Drinking the black milk. I got the green hair. The clouds. Brushing my teeth with flies. Dog breath. Petting the black dog. Dog in a river current, chasing a stick, a ball, a stick, a ball…sinking, goodbye heavy dog. My glass is full of ink this evening. I’m tea dregs and cataracts in an ashtray. I smoke in my dreams now, and when I sneak one. Black smoke of roasting bones. Wreaths and plumes. Dark, scorched, smudged. I won’t be answering that phone. I’m busy, sucking death. I’m riding the night mare. Feeling her black froth, her cold sweat. Can’t answer, I said. I got the needle and thread. The sinew. I’m sewing my black suit, black tie, my casket liner. Last night I dreamt I was a folding chair in an empty room. I was curled in a deep pocket, some moist lint. They call it cloaking, this heavy weight on your spine and shoulders. Eating the black ice. What’s the solution? Gritty. Everything loops and loops. I’m not going to tell you everything. No one does. Really, we know very little. Depression. Way down there, way low.

Insomnia of an Elderly French Designer (#6)

His one harbor, one refuge…

Then sleep scattered in a covey of frightened birds. He would startle awake, three, ten, fourteen times. What was it? Off somewhere, a faint siren. Flutter of night wings. The ceiling fan. A passenger jet, the hiss of contrails. Silence. Window flex, groan of timber. The spin of the earth. Somewhere, someone, a rise and fall, inhalation, exhalation—a breathing, settling of eyes. He would lie there, his pulse in his skin, a threading beneath the inner ear, in his left thumb. Like the clatter, the dash; something slipping out to skulk. Some dull pain of the stomach, the lip-tingling of a cold sore; and he would think, This is new. Something new I am going to have to live with. Until finally—finally, finally—he would fade into sleep. And then awake! Panting, prickly sweat. What was it? The moon; some moon, out there, halving.

Insomnia of an Elderly French Designer (#14)

His mind cycled: an urge to live, no longer live; an even more visceral fear of death. His eyeglasses chafed a sore above his temple, and so he clutched the frames and flung them across the room. Crawled along the hardwood floor, grasped with bony fingers. Half-blind. Lost. Curled up below a chair, a thicket.

     I’ll swim      wounded head     to the light   half light        eclipse   the
only clothing a human needs

the arms of someone, of a lover     a person leaving a show    a person treading water      a person waiting for rain     to stop
hollow bones   bees creating perfect octagons    bird nests        vodka and more vodka, undetectable       breath   a person as crow
metaphor of flying       captive    day and night collide      the robes of Buddha     the robes of Jesus   the robes of ______          early
rain early bird    the        sleet    cocaine, dirty     cut with carefully lower the lamb   the rock dove    cut with
high basalt cliffs  cut with intoxication   Stygian   decay    or flaw
maelstroms   stones of almost any    cut with Vulcan                    Opium   flamma                             flagrare              suck the night clean
of insects
snatched back to the human         a basin        a bowl          submerging      in the makeup room: two old ladies apply cosmetics to the
models,                their eyes
licking the black wall
weeping   willow              what is my head doing over there, what is my head

doing off?

About the Author

Sean Lovelace lives in Indiana, where he directs the creative writing program at Ball State University. His latest collection is about Velveeta and published by Bateau Press. He has won several national literary awards, including the Crazyhorse Prize for Fiction. He reviews flash fiction for Diagram Magazine. He likes to run, far.

This story appeared in Issue Eighteen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighteen

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