All its doors unlocked in the middle of Milan
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A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
I fell asleep with the telly on again.
It’s not the first time. I’ve done this before. I’m sure you have, too. There’s a show you’re vaguely interested in, but it can’t really keep your attention and you drift away into the Land of Nod, only to wake up long after it’s over and find that you’re halfway through an infomercial for a rotisserie machine with French doors.
But we don’t really sleep, do we? The television soothes us into a level of unconsciousness in which we are still able to absorb information.
There’s a parallel existence out there, a soft and dreamy plane between bright wakefulness and dark slumber, a thin but curiously cozy place for the brain to rest without the serious commitment required of being alert and without the total loss of all sensibilities or control that comes with slipping into the nighttime coma.
It is a Huxleyan place, where things we cannot control are inserted into our minds and stay there, festering, quietly swelling, furtively persuading, a bit like the zucchini in the vegetable crisper that slowly becomes soft and then quite runny, darkens and reaches its fearsome furriness to the neighboring cucumber or fondles the wee florets at the tips of an aging broccoli. Eventually, it’s taken over and we can’t imagine when, because it was fine the last time we looked.
We may not even remember buying a zucchini in the first place, but there it is, and now it’s even oozed onto the romaine.
Floating in that hazy zone, we can still hear footsteps in the hallway, rain falling on a tin roof, and cats hacking up hairballs under the dining table. We hear them, because parts of our brain are still alert, but our bodies are reduced to big floppy bags of jelly and there’s absolutely nothing we can do with them.
A telephone may ring. We’ll know it did so. We may even know exactly where it is, but we will float through the sound like Lennon under his marmalade skies.
We are effectively primed, vulnerable and completely vacant in these fogbound hours. Our minds have become a family sedan left with all its doors unlocked in the middle of Milan.
Anything and everything will flow in there.
Of course it all comes to an end. Something will happen to tug us back to the land of the living, prostrate on the upholstery in the gloom, with a trickle of drool at the corner of the mouth and the freshly emptied cat on the arm of the chair with a quizzical look that says “I’ve always known there was something wrong with you. Also, please don’t look over there.”
Meanwhile, the television still flickers, its nighttime inhabitants still look absurdly glamorous and happy, and we’ve developed a strange hankering for some Japanese knives, a free trial of wrinkle cream or some pots and pans that are so stick-proof that melted sweets will slide right out of them.
I can’t say I have often looked at my own pots and pans and thought “I sure wish I could just liquify some candy still in its wrappers right now… If only I had some magical copper-coated cookware.”
But I’ve considered it.
I’ve even found myself considering spray-on hair, slumber seats on Asian airliners, car insurance from enormous cartoons or people who sing… but I have demurred.
I find the prospect of all the ailments that appear only to happen to the nocturnal to be quite sobering. There are people out there, it seems, whose hands don’t lay flat or who often find themselves winking a lot in situations made awkward because of it. Considering how much it costs to air a television commercial these days, the business of lawsuits by people who once pulled asbestos out of navy ships must be booming.
Clearly an awful lot of people need lawyers around these parts. Commercial vehicle accidents are plentiful. People are hurt. They need representation.
They probably don’t need to go straight from chopping hawsers to slicing julienne tomatoes, and they might not want to clear up some blotchy skin with Cyndi Lauper, but everything’s a wash in the gloaming. The flotsam and jetsam of the night world may ebb, but little bits of it all will stick.
I may be wakened by the rotisserie going ‘Ding.’