“When was the last time you slept?” she asked.
I pondered this for a second. I recognized the word, of course, but it seemed meaningless and powerless against the reality I faced. My brain futilely burned glucose like a furnace trying to heat a house with missing walls. Everything was so heavy. My limbs, my eyelids, the world itself pressed down on me. Every action was, out of necessity, deliberate. There was no room for casual movement. It would have been a pointless waste of energy.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “What did you ask?”
She looked at me, lines of genuine worry sullying her features.
“You look awful,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said, resting my head in my hands, “You look great too.”
I realized I was staring directly into my cup. She had coffee, I had ordered a tea with the ludicrous name of “Sleepytime Orange Jasmine.” I considered drinking it, but at the thought my stomach roiled in protest.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said.
I stared out the window as she drove. Trees and houses whipped past. It hurt my eyes to watch, so I closed them.
“I don’t know why you do this to yourself,” she said.
“I haven’t done anything,” I said, eyes still closed.
We drove on in silence for a few minutes.
“Have you seen a doctor?” she asked, finally.
“I *am* a doctor,” I sighed.
“That doesn’t matter. I’m a stylist, but I don’t cut my own hair.”
“Why not?” I asked, opening my eyes at this point and turning to look at her. I was genuinely interested. I didn’t know anything about cutting hair.
“I spend all day fussing over other people’s hair,” she said, faint traces of a smile creeping over her features, “I just like to have the same attention paid to mine by someone else sometimes.”
“I don’t really think that’s anything like my situation,” I said.
Her smile disappeared.
“Anyway,” I said after a few minutes, “To answer your question, I have been to a doctor. Multiple doctors, in fact. Nobody’s ever heard of this happening before. Nobody’s body has ever just up and decided that it’s going to stop sleeping.”
“That’s so weird,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said, sighing. “I’ve been to sleep specialists, psychologists, faith healers, sleeping pills, meditation, you name it. I’ve tried drinking myself to sleep, didn’t do anything. I even had coven of wiccans cast a sleeping spell on me.”
She laughed, then stopped, unsure of if that was rude or not.
“So…how did it happen?”
I shrugged. “I’ve always had a lot of trouble sleeping. You know how sometimes, the night before something really big and important, you just can’t sleep? Your mind just won’t stop, you toss and turn until your alarm clock goes off?”
“Well, that sort of thing used to happen to me a lot. More than most people, I’m sure. And then, eventually, it just started happening every night.”
“Wow,” she said, “That’s terrible.”
The car stopped. She had finally pulled up in front of my house. I unbuckled my seatbelt and climbed out.
“Well,” she said, “This has been the weirdest first date I’VE ever been on.”