Def: Sleepwalking is characterised by a series of complex events, walking being the most common among them.
I discovered I was a sleepwalker when I was six years old. I stumbled to the kitchen and started scrubbing the table frantically. I imagine I felt guilty for never cleaning up the strawberry milk I would perpetually spill during my waking hours. My mother saw me that night, and immediately understood what state I was in when she caught a glimpse of the glazed expression swimming in my eyes. She felt it was important we seek medical advice. I never wanted to; it made it feel like a disease blooming inside me, ravaging my insides and curling around my brain. The doctor said sleepwalking could be triggered by negative stimuli: excessive stress, alcohol or drugs; or it could be genetic. He said I should take warm baths , go to bed at regular hours and sleep in a dark and quaint environment. None of that has ever worked for me.
I like to think sleepwalking is what ruined my life. It isn't really, but blaming my lack of success on something tangible releases the weight of guilt, just a little.
To be honest, I am a failure.
My relationships throughout the years have been scarce and unstable - I'm just not very likeable- and my parents are disgusted by what I've become: dependent on them, unemployed, not because I am incompetent, but because I am a coward, and living in a so-called "bliss" bubble of solitude. The worst part is, my undeniable and irrevocable despair is greatly due to the fact that I'm a control freak. Sleepwalking wipes my memory and paralyses my limbs. During an episode, I am unaware, unconscious. What I lack in one particular area, I attempt to make up for in another. My waking life is all planned out, never unexpected or spontaneous. One of my past girlfriends, Mel, who was of course, very short-term, threw me a surprise party for my 23rd birthday. When I stepped into the living room, and everyone bellowed "SURPRISE!", I burst into tears and started shrieking. A stiff, awkward shock trickled into the room. You should've seen the looks on their faces. I remember throwing my laptop on the floor and stomping on it before bolting upstairs and locking the door. There was no reasoning with me. Mel broke up with me the next morning. By text.
That's usually how my relationships expire.
What I can say is that the danger linked to my unconscious being is hardly just an illusion.
About six months ago, a tall man with wiry hair and glinting ice-green eyes mugged me, when I was sleepwalking. His brutal poking and shaking awoke me from the trance I found myself in. He was shouting in my face, "Give me your money, freak! Didn't you hear me?! Give me your bloody money!!". His fingers were clasped around a knife. I was more confused than I ever recall being. I lashed out at him, it was instinctive I believe, and blood gushed from his nose where I had struck. I staggered away then, feeling nauseous and overcome with an almost crippling fear. I heard the mugger's sobbing dwindle as I drifted further and further away from him.
I have seen therapists. Quite a few actually. They're the nosiest people I've ever met, constantly asking me what I think the "origin" of my problem is.
I always say the same thing: "I don't know what I'm capable of. It's not my fault."
Today, I am 27, and nothing has changed. Not even a little. My life is just the same as it's always been. I clutch the groceries to my chest and exhale, a tremor muffling my breath. My mind is blank. I am unable to reflect on who I am, the disappointment is too great to endure. I pass the florist. She's a plump woman with a mass of curly ginger hair. She greets me, but her voice is thick with pity and judgement. She'll never be a friend, only someone who pretends to notice me. I tilt my head and squint at the grey-bellied sky, where black clouds are smothered against one another, growing denser and darker by the second.
Rain is inevitable.
The music of the rain is what triggers my sleepwalking. My very being is nourished by the sound of water tumbling down from the sky. My nails dig into the brown paper bag, and a fat raindrop plops onto my nose and lingers there for a moment before sliding off my clammy skin, effortlessly. It's odd, my name is "Dalfon" which means "raindrop", but this particular raindrop carries only dread and insecurity. Does it reflect who I am? Who I've always been? I walk faster. Gooey romantic couples and little old women blur past me as hot tears well up in my eyes.
I have yet another job interview. This time at my local bank. I know more about finance than most of them, but it's one of those places where the manager is biased and only employs under-accomplished people, as long as they're pretty to look at, and as long as their presence is somewhat imposing and significant. I'm not so bad-looking myself, but I don't have the necessary confidence. As I step into the office, I know the job is not going to be mine. I answer the questions vaguely, tripping over my words and stammering like I used to when I was a little boy.
I am a failure yet again.
That night, I lie in my bed, and force myself to stay awake. The rain descends in ropes. The cold lights in my room are flicked on. My window is ajar and cool air snakes in. I mustn't fall asleep. I must remain in control. Everything feels heavy, especially my eyes. They flutter shut. Just a minute. Just a minute of rest. I'm guessing it's about three in the morning when I fall asleep.
I am not in control.
I wake up to the sound of honking from the window. An acute pain ripples through my spine. I stand, groaning, and shuffle towards the mirror. I gasp, my breath catching in my throat. There on my face, is a deep purple gash, bruised around the edges. Dry blood is caked underneath my fingernails. My muscles ache. I try to remember something, anything at all, but the events of the previous night are hazy, washed away by the rain.
I run over to my computer and thump the keys, my fingers quivering. I scroll through the latest news:
-14 YEAR OLD GIRL SEVERELY INJURED BY UNKNOWN MAN
-ELDERLY MAN IN SEVERE CONDTION AFTER VIOLENT THEFT
And worst of all:
-TWO CHILDREN FOUND DEAD IN A DITCH
I shiver. It could be me.
Knots form in my stomach. I wheeze, leaning into the wall. Shower, I need to shower.
I need to remove any trace of who I really am. No one will know. No one can know.
The hot water gushes over me, loosening my muscles, weaving into my hair. I close my eyes, and try to find some source of reassurance. I need to distract myself. I begin mumbling to myself, my favourite quote light on my lips:
"I love sleepwalking because where else would I get to combine exercise and rest?"
Jarod Kintz [sleepwalking therapist]
I decide, right then and there, that I need to get out. I need to walk the streets and observe the people around me. Will they point at me and shout? Will they grab me and throw me to the ground? Or will they simply look at me differently? Do they know what I've done? Will they tell? I step out of the shower, the steam swirling around me, and wrap myself in a towel, quickly, before the cool air seeps into my skin. I wear nicer clothes than usual, and comb my hair; I want to appear careless, smartly-dressed, level-headed. I grab my rust-coloured briefcase and throw open the door, not allowing myself to think. A tall, slender woman rushes past me, her heels clicking rhythmically against the pavement. She sees me, but doesn't hold my gaze. She seems indifferent. The next man I see appears genuinely lost, but he actually smiles at me and nods, softly. The florist hoots:
"Well, well, Dalfon, don't you look lovely today!"
Secrets unknown to me are kept, concealed. Relief washes over me, like a chilly breeze on the stickiest summer day.
I am safe.
I am a part of the starry nights shrouded in rain and thrill. I could be anyone. Anyone. A ruthless murderer, an austere vigilante, a livid psychopath. I closed my eyes and inhale the burnt, honeyed odours. my imagination had been lit, the flames dancing before my eyes, licking the possibilities.
I look up at the sky, the clouds rolling in, onyx-coloured. In them I sense possibility; I feel a feverish anticipation and shudder
When the first raindrop skims my cheek, I smile and think: maybe it's this raindrop, cradling imagination and curiosity, that represents who I am, who I've always been.