Tonight in Ohio, 2022

Ohio. This morning’s heavy fog matched my blurry mood after another night of patchy sleep. By noon the temperature edged into the seventies beneath a cloudless sky. These summery November days echo my sense of losing the rhythm, of being out of time. But I’ve decided to embrace the upside of insomnia. No more tossing and turning. If my consciousness refuses to rest, so be it—I’ll shift into vampire mode and use the small hours to write.

Last night I finished Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, a remarkable book, especially for 1954. We spend 180 pages in the head of one lonely man, the last survivor in a world of vampires. When he visits the crypt where his wife’s body rests, it becomes a meditation on grief and depression:

He had no idea how long he’d been there. After a while, though, even the deepest sorrow faltered, even the most penetrating despair lost its scalpel edge. The flagellant’s curse, he thought, to grow inured even to the whip. He straightened up and stood. Still alive, he thought, heart beating senselessly, veins running without point, bones and muscles and tissue all alive and functioning with no purpose at all.

He gently closes the crypt so as not to disturb her sleep and returns to his suburban home for another bout of rumination while the monsters beat at his shutters. I think the story is so durable—and haunting—because Matheson’s prose rides an uncanny line between psychological interiority and clinical detachment. (The precision of his writing in Legend is a million miles from Hell House, another horror landmark he wrote seventeen years later, and reads like something blurted out on a bender during a botched attempt to plagiarize Shirley Jackson. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)

My insomnia puzzles me because I cannot point to a cause. I’m facing no catastrophes or major vexations beyond the search for meaning and a way to survive this century with some dignity. Perhaps my brain has run out of sleeping juice. Or maybe I’m just anxious to get on the road in a few weeks.

Teeth of Glass – Vampires Forever

The Dead Can Wait | 2022 | Bandcamp
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