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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

No Sleep Till Brookline

Every once in a very, very, very long while, the feebleness that comes with advancing age works to my advantage.

(Did I say ‘very’? Oh, good; I couldn’t remember. Like they say, the memory is always the first thing to… uh, something-or-other.

At any rate — VERY.)

Today, magically enough, was one of those times. I’ve never been a morning person — and that is so not one of the things I’m gaining with age. Ear hair, yes. Slightly longer belts, check. The ability to leap out of bed at six in the morning (or seven thirty, for that matter) alert and refreshed and tickled to be alive?

No. Not if I live to be three hundred and four. Unless they come up with some sort of DNA transplant and nighttime caffeine IVs, at least.

However. I’ve always said that “once I’m up, I’m up”. On the days when I do have to drag my foggy sagged ass out of bed before, say, eight am, I’m awake until nighttime.

I’m effing miserable, at least through dinner — and in my miserableness, willing to make those around me comparably miserable as well. But if I’m properly up out of bed, there’s no going back.

Most of the problem is what “properly up” entails. I can wake up to pee, no problem. A dream or a noise or a swift kick in the back to interrupt my snoring can wake me at four, or six, or a quarter till eight, and I’ll check the clock, laugh right in its face, and roll over for more shuteye. None of these are “getting up” in my book. Not really.

“I’m one of the four aged assholes left in the world wearing hard-style “gas permeable” lenses, which I understand are usually chiseled out of mined quartz or chipped out of recycled Buick windshields.”

For me, getting up “for true” usually involves showering. That’s a problem — it’s not easy to get wet, navigate a washcloth around your entire body without spraining something and vigorously towel down without waking up a little. I’ve tried doing it without gaining lucidity, and it’s not great. I shampooed the shower head once. I’ve dried off with the bath mat. And I’m pretty certain I once ate a half a bar of Irish Spring. I don’t remember it clearly, but I couldn’t close my eyes for a week, and everything tasted like shamrocks and springtime.

The shower’s not the game-breaker, though. I have — usually under the influence of a bad cold — gotten out of bed, showered, and slithered right back under the covers. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. The real barrier to sweet, sweet re-napping is the contact lenses. Once I put those in, that’s it. I’m up for the duration, and surely sorrier for it.

It’s my own fault, really. I first got contacts back in the Stone Age, when they didn’t have fancy “wear-in” lenses and soft contacts made of Saran Wrap and soap bubbles and fluffy goose down. I’m one of the four aged assholes left in the world wearing hard-style “gas permeable” lenses, which I understand are usually chiseled out of mined quartz or chipped out of recycled Buick windshields.

Cleaning them requires a special solution that burns like hell if you use it for less than six hours, but which bubbles away all the hurty parts overnight in a little “contact lens cauldron” they give you with the bottle. Which is not really a deal, since the solution is approximately on par with the price of gold per ounce. They could give you Faberge eggs to store your lenses in, and it still wouldn’t qualify as a bargain.

(You normal modern people might think I’m making all of this up. Sadly, I’m not. I’m only making up tiny bits and pieces of it — but the burning-eye juice and the bubbler case and the exorbitant price tag are all too real. And if you ever got an eyelash under your gas permeable hard lens, you’d believe me about the Buick thing, too. Trust me.)

Because of the hassle of getting these shards of glass in my eyes — and the threat of an inadvertent acid wash if I put them back in the case short-term — the contact lenses are basically the gatekeepers. Until they’re in, I’m not “up”. But once they are, regardless of the time, there’s no going back to bed.

And so we come to this morning. By a stroke of coincidence, my father-in-law (who was visiting) and my wife (who had a business trip) were leaving Boston on separate planes an hour apart this morning. It made sense for them to go together. It also made sense not to leave a car at the airport. And while it might have normally made sense to call a cab, my office observes the Columbus Day holiday today. So evidently — though I was not asked to vote on the motion — it made sense for me to drive them.

At five fifteen in the morning.

That’s pre-dawn here in Brookline, just west of Boston proper. I woke up at four thirty, cursed the world for ever hatching me into it, and stumbled through a rather uneven performance in the shower. Thankfully, no soap was eaten. Though I may have blow-dryed my hair with an electric toothbrush. And then came the moment of truth: do I put in my contact lenses?

I paused and thought it through. If I didn’t put in my lenses, I could drop them off, swing back home, and be snuggled back in bed by six — the better to sleep another three or four hours on a holiday, the way Chris Columbus and the Conquistadors intended. Of course, if I don’t have my contacts in, I can’t see clearly more than eight inches in front of my face. We’d probably all die in a fiery car accident, quite possibly on the way out of the parking lot. Under no circumstances could I navigate, lensless, to and from the airport without grievous bodily harm and probably a gasoline-fueled explosion of some kind. But still — no lenses, more beddy-bye.

Clearly, it was a tough decision.

Eventually, I relented and put my contacts in. I shuttled the missus and the missus’ dad to their respective terminals, circled back and parked the car without incident. I turned my key in the condo door, fully expecting that one bit of brain that works before noon to chirp its suggestions, the way it always does in these situations: “Hey, let’s check email!” “We’ve got some good shows taped!” “How about we make a sandwich?” “What about all those books we’ve been meaning to read?

That little clump of neurons is like a chihuahua on crack, distracting me from fatigue and reason and self-preservation, always thinking of things to do, do do, DO! It works at six in the morning — and two am, too, when I should be going to bed. It’s persistent and relentless and insidiously persuasive.

And this morning, when I shuffled back home at a quarter till six, it was something else, too. It was asleep.

It’s a sign, perhaps, that I’m past the age where “pushing through”, just to “push through”, feels imperative. Stay up because you can! Because it’s the adventurous thing to do! Because it might make a great story some day!

That used to be me. But maybe not so much any more. Frankly, I got tired just writing that paragraph. So this morning, at ten till ass-crack of way-too-early, I found a spare contact lens holder, dumped some plain tap water in it, popped my lenses out and went back to bed. It’s a first for me. It felt a little strange, a little feeble, a little like giving up.

Until I woke up at a quarter till ten, wide awake and perky. Then it felt delicious.

So maybe old age — or advancing middle-ish age, at least — isn’t all bad, absolutely all of the time. If it involves climbing back into bed an extra couple of times a day, I think I could get used to that. I’m still not into the breaking a hip and driving fourteen miles an hour on the freeway, but I’ll meet you halfway, ravages of time.

Just so long as we’re not meeting before noon. That shit is for young people and birds. And apparently, I’m neither any more.

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