Wet Styrofoam Memories

Greetings from a very tired Tbone. For those of you who know me well, you will likely not be surprised to hear that my legendary insomnia is still kicking my ass full-force these days, not even the slightest bit improved with my new routine and schedule. I come home every day completely exhausted, thinking that for sure my body needs to catch up and that I’ll finally have those elusive undisturbed eight hours of rest. But then it doesn’t happen, night after night, and I carry on. I like to think of myself as a machine that doesn’t need sleep, because nine days out of ten, I function just fine on the three-five hours of sleep I fitfully manage to get. I’ve never been a good sleeper and can therefore get through the day with far less sleep than most people, but this new breed of insomnia is getting a little ridiculous.

And please folks, trust me when I tell you that I have tried everything. I have tested out every old-wive’s tale, every pharmaceutical sleep aid, every holistic method. I have even become impervious to Ambien at this point, which is really saying something. Surely, at some point this sleep problem will resolve itself and I’ll become a regular human being again. Though I can’t say why or when, I trust that sleep—oh, delicious sleep—will be mine again one day. In the meantime, I sure do get a lot accomplished in those vampire hours. I shudder to think of how many books I will miss out on reading once I start sleeping through the night again.

Last night I headed to bed early in an effort to, if nothing else, attempt to will myself to sleep at a decent hour. I finished reading at 11 pm and turned off the light. Surprisingly, I actually fell asleep and stayed that way…for two whole hours. I was awake at 12:55 am after an incredibly bizarre dream—one that was so strange and steeped in memories buried deeply in my subconscious that I couldn’t shake it to fall asleep again the rest of the night. I lay awake until it was time to get up at 6, wondering what it all meant.

In this dream, I was reunited with a boy from my past, one who left an imprint on me without ever saying a word. He is the subject of the poem below, which was actually my very first published poem. The boy from the Italian train was my husband in this dream, and he and I were doing the most ordinary of things as if we had been together for years, high school sweethearts or something of the sort. In this dream-life, he was so clear to me, so real and fully-formed. I ran my fingers through his beard. He cooked breakfast while I showered. We walked the dog. Drove to work.

I’m trying to clear my head and focus on work and other important things today, but I can’t help wondering what actually happened to that boy in real life, and if he ever dreams of that girl he met on an Italian train, who never even said a word.


I practiced flirting on an Italian train
leaving Switzerland, with a European boy
camped out across from me.
I liked him when he sat down,
liked his messy hair, his loose sweater
his weathered pants that hung on him
the way pants ought to hang on a boy.

I pretended not to notice him,
tried to look my prettiest staring out the window.
He tried, too, not to give himself away,
but we each caught the other staring more than once.
Little smile, wet my lips.
I watched like a child while he rolled cigarettes,
smoked them between sips of coffee, and glanced
out the window, then back to me.
I wanted him to speak English.
I wanted him to ask my name.

When he fell asleep against his backpack
I imagined myself moving
like a thief across the tops of the seats,
to kiss his eyelids without a word of hello.

But it wasn’t for me to wake him up
and the men who did were far less sweet
than I fantasized I would be.
Nine sweating Italian police hurried toward us,
looking more like commandos covered in green,
with weapons too large for such a confining space.
Swinging their rifles round to their backs
they flipped through my passport, and they examined
my body. The dogs watching me at their knees

were not the dogs I knew from home.
Turning to my boy still sleeping
they slapped his forehead, and unpacked all his things.
His embarrassment was racking for us both.
The Polizia Ferroviaria, yelling and laughing
and slapping my boy on the head,
didn’t mind my watching. I knew they were talking about it.

When they pulled him out of his seat
and threw his things on the floor he looked at me again
and asked for a cigarette. I knew enough Italian
to understand sigaretta, but couldn’t lift my arm to give him one.
I watched, behind the window, as he was taken away.
When he was gone I took a sip from his cold cup of coffee,
and smoked that cigarette myself.


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