Josef W. had begun his struggle with sleep a number of weeks ago, though he could not pinpoint the exact moment the minute shift took place. He had spent that first night looking out at the darkness, his mind unobsessed with any of the usual vaguaries that would normally keep him up. Instead he noted the breathing of M next to him, he tracked the late night meanderings of his dog.
Eventually, he went to sleep. So subtle was his insomnia, that he never paused to give thought to what could possibly be causing it; because it wasn't that he didn't sleep, per se. He always managed to get enough sleep so as to avoid getting to the point of hallucinating during his waking hours. Two and a half, to three hours during the week; about four hours over the weekend.
It wasn't until about a week later that he realized that something was amiss.
It came to him as he was bending down, plastic bag enclosing his hand, to pick up the still warm, yet solid shit his dog just oozed out. "I wonder if I'll sleep well tonight," he thought, and then he enveloped the dump with the bag. He got up as he tabulated the previous week's sleep.
"Huh," he muttered, and led the dog back home.
Time inevitably passes, and with it, a kind of apathetic acceptance of the new circumstance is adopted.
M, however, had started to worry. She never talked about it, so as far as Josef W. was concerned, because she never acknowledged it, she likely does not know. Nothing could've been further from the truth.
It took her a while to get to the truth of the matter, but once she figured out what the problem was, she tried, despite the futility of the effort, to ease Josef W. back to the land of sleeping regularly. Some attempts were more fun than others for the two of them, but none had achieved the goal she was looking for.
M went as far as mixing in a couple of ground up Somatine into one of his meals, which did have the desired effect of having Josef W. asleep before midnight. Her worry eased for the moment, she went to sleep next to him.
"M, wake up! It's time for sausage!" Josef W. was shaking her.
Groggily, she checked the alarm clock. "Josef, it's three thirty in the morning." She looked over at Josef, as he got dressed. "Josef, are you going commando?"
"Come on, M. Sausage waits for no one." He walked out of the room, and M was about to go back to sleep when she remembered that they had been vegetarian for almost a decade, and then, she heard Josef W. grabbing the keys to the car.
"Josef, wait!" She put her sneakers on as she heard the door to the apartment open and shut. She struggled into her coat, and the echoes of Josef's shoes reverberated in the hallway. "Josef!" She ran after him.
She bursts out onto their stoop, into the chill February air, snow piling down silently, and Josef W. in his light corduroy jacket, more than halfway down the block, approaching their car. M barely maneuvers a patch of black ice at the bottom of the stairs, nearly colliding with the post bearing the hours that parking would be available on that side of the street.
Josef W. was attempting to turn on the car for the second time, when M finally caught up to him. She banged on the window, and Josef W. automatically reached over and unlocked the door for her.
"Josef, where are you going," she asked as she clambered into the bucket seat. He didn't answer, instead he managed to start the car and put it into gear. They drove through the snow down to the corner, where they took a right, towards Central Park.
"Where are you going?"
"Beth's. I don't know why, but I gots me a hankerin' for some shitty coffee right now."
"Josef, what are you talking about? We haven't been to Beth's in years."
"What do you mean?" Josef W. looked at his wife, and there was something about the blank look in his eye that made M realize her husband was not pulling her leg. He looked back to the road and he drove through the red light.
"Josef, wake up." He gained speed, and in the process the wheels started to lose traction on the icy streets. "Josef, slow down and wake up...please." Panic engulfed her, and as that unforgiving rush of emotion settled, the quieter she became. The mind's ear played with her, so that while she believed she was yelling, what actually came out was a whimper. She looked at the road ahead, and she saw what her husband probably had not; they were on a collision path with a snow plow.
"Josef? Please, honey."
"M, is your seatbelt on?" Josef asked innocently as he continued looking straight ahead.
"Josef, goddamnit, wake up! NOW!" This time she was heard, and Josef W., momentarily unaware of his circumstance, slammed on the breaks.
The car skidded, their equilibrium off-balance and stomachs lurching, coming closer and closer to the snowplow, the telephone pole, the curb, Josef W., his foot firmly planted on the break, M hanging on to the handle, Josef W. yelling "what the fuck" repeatedly, alternating it with the occasional "shitshitshit," M with her eyes closed, murmuring "please please please."
The car stopped. Unharmed. The snowplow made its slow progress further down the street. Josef W. and M gasped for breath.
"What the fuck?"
"Take us home, Josef."
"Okay, but wh--"
They went home; neither able to get any more sleep that night.
Had Josef W. been aware of the atmosphere in his classroom, he would have been stunned by the seeming reverence being paid to his persona at the moment.
The bell had rung five minutes before, and Josef W. sat at his desk, placidly staring ahead. The students purposefully misunderstood his reticence as willing endorsement of their activities. Slowly, however, curiosity started overwhelming their disruptive natures, and one by one, the students took to watching Josef W. to see if there was something he was planning with this bold, if minimalist, maneuver.
"Mr. W, you all right?" A few of the students were asking each other what they thought may have been wrong, and someone whispered "shit, he was always retarded."
A juicy spitwad splats itself on Josef W.'s forehead, and the room holds its collective breath waiting for the wrath that would surely follow. It wasn't coming.
"OOOOoooooh, shit!" "Did you see that shit?" "Yo, man, you gave him a facial!" "Mr. W, you a faggot!" "Bust a nut up in yo face-" "-told you he a retard" "still wearin' those gay-ass fuckin' shoes" "Mr. W, when you start smokin' cra-"
Josef W.'s hand shoots straight up, and he lets it drop forward, as if he were performing a karate chop. His hand hits the desk, and he yells "BUDGET CUTS!"
The room falls silent. Sixty-three eyeballs fall on the formerly reticent teacher, as he spouted babble that seemingly made sense only to him.
"Listen to me, it is unnecessary to assume anything in a world where copying what older generations did 20 years ago is considered avant garde. Do you really think anything you're doing right now is new? Do you? I can pretty much guarantee you right now that your father or your mother has done exactly the same thing...How do you like where they ended up? Think of Bobby Brown! The Hilton sisters are empty shells of human beings! The rubik's cube was used to determine the course of the Gulf War!
"There is nothing inherently wrong with wasting time. Never bet on the Cardinals. Find the old man in the canoe. The better colognes don't advertise on TV. It has taken me years to perfect my blueberry pie. When did man start cleaning up after its pets? I only respect the idea of Garrison Keillor. I distrust whatever the majority likes...just because. No matter which way you slice it, there is nothing as satisfying as a creme brulee
after a stressful week..."
The bell rings, and the students go on to their next class, and Josef W.'s next group of students file in and get settled, wondering why their teacher has started their class before the bell rang. They remain quiet once they realize his lecture has nothing to do with their class, and instead try to decipher just what the hell he means.
Josef W. continues talking...
(Happy Birthday, Joe