I slept last night. Really hard. The kind of sleep where I woke up and had to feel around in my bed for hints of where I was. I don’t think my announcement of sleep is particularly noteworthy to anyone, but to me it is the kind of thing that if I were a Neanderthal I would make cave paintings about so everyone in the future knew how good I feel at this moment.
There’s a real sweetness to waking up while traveling. The details take their time emerging because there’s no alarm clock assault, no one who needs my attention but me. The blissed out detective in my fuzzy brain started putting together clues. When I heard Plastic Bag Man rustling around, I knew I was still in Boquete. Before I opened my eyes the first morning, I imagined that on every inch of his skin was a film of shopping bags, because how else could he create such a surround sound experience for his fellow travelers before 7 am? But today, coated in the afterglow of actual sleep, I want to kiss him for being part of the dorm that contributed to this restful perfect night. In the bunk next to me is California Pete, a fellow former actor who had his own milestone last night, completing One Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish. We were so excited to be bunk mates that he offered to let me whisper writing ideas to him at night if I couldn’t sleep.
Cute English guy above me is a silent sleeper, rare for someone in a flimsy metal bunk bed. Even the curtains are that perfect kind where light dances through them, making the tree leaves look like gentle shadow puppets putting on a lazy show for me to wake up to. There’s an actual river outside my window, which might now replace fans as a prerequisite for sleepovers. This morning I am floating around this hostel, smiling at anything that moves. I wonder if other people feel like this all the time.
I should point out that I have a pretty solid relationship with insomnia and all manner of sleep aids. Sleepovers were never my thing. Even when I was ten and slept at my friend Heather‘s house, I would stay up late talking to her dad about the harsh realities of war because I was resigned to the fact that sleep would never come for me. I can still remember the weight of his words and the way he treated me as a contemporary, not a kid who two hours earlier was making up melodramatic dance routines to a Phil Collins song with his daughter. Looking back, those probably helped shaped my anti war feelings and made me realize that I wanted more of those adult conversations where people took me seriously. I guess it also reminded me there are moments to be missed by going to bed on time.
“encroach, v. The first three nights we spent together, I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t used to your breathing, your feet on my legs, your weight in my bed. In truth, I still sleep better when I’m alone. But now I allow that sleep isn’t always the most important thing.” David Levithan, The Lover’s Dictionary
I can, however, sleep whenever I am not supposed to. In the car, when everyone is ready to go out, on the phone, babysitting and once during a friend‘s comedy show. I have definitely dozed on night watch while sailing and during a French film festival at the Music Box. I then had to fake with two cute French guys that I had seen and loved the whole thing. Maybe it is not for me to understand. Maybe sleep for me will always be elusive and mysterious; something I’m always chasing.
I am not presumptuous enough to assume I can recreate the magic of last night by booking another night in this dream hostel, but I will try. Even though the feeling of the room has changed now that cool Swedish scuba girl is gone, having been replaced by the sleepy guy from Argentina, I still hope to create the same experience. Maybe it is not about the river or the good spirits of people I have met that lulled me to sleep. Perhaps I have cracked the ancient code of the well-rested and will forever be a part of this wonder club.
Or I will just dive onto my pillow each night with no expectations, only hope of sweet dreams.