Looking around the coffee shop I took a moment to regain my bearings. This wasn’t anything too new for me, I had been dealing with the same problem my entire life. Ever since I had been a kid I had the unfortunate issue of falling asleep uncontrollably, many times with no warning. No matter what I was doing, no matter where I was, there was always the underlying risk of falling asleep suddenly.
It made the normal day to day life many people took for granted difficult. I couldn’t drive without being under the influence of some sort of doctor-prescribed narcotic, which would keep me awake long into the night. By the time I would fall asleep I wouldn’t have enough time to get a proper nights rest, so the next day was essentially a crap shoot where I just hoped I wouldn’t put my or anyone else’s life in danger.
This was life. Actually, this was MY life, my cross to bear. I walked a lot of places. I tried not to drive unless it was an absolute emergency. If I did find myself behind the wheel of a car I was sure to call out of work the next day, inform anyone who would need to know about the situation and ask them to allow me to do whatever I could from home.
Before my father passed a year prior he would be willing to give me rides, run errands for me, whatever was necessary so I was capable of living as close to a normal life as possible. Once he succumbed to the cancer eating away at his pancreas I was left all alone, which wasn’t a bad thing per say, because it forced me to fend for myself on a slew of new issues with which I had never previously had to deal.
To say I miss my father now sounds as though I miss him because he used to take care of me in my times of need, but the truth is he was my best friend in every way a person can be a best friend. Every day I think about him and wish he was still with me. He is still the only friend I ever really had. Saying I miss him doesn’t give justice to my feelings on what it is like to not have him in my life anymore, there isn’t a word in the English language to properly describe the feeling of loneliness I feel with him not being there to answer my phone call, or eat dinner with on a random Wednesday.
The town I live in took pity on me for a short time after he passed. Many of the citizens stepped up and volunteered their time, services, money, whatever they could to make my life easier at the beginning. Over time, though, they grew tired of having to take care of the “freak son” of Big Mike.
Before he passed away he was loved by everyone. Dad made sure he was there to help out whenever someone needed assistance, whether it be an extra pair of hands moving, or help build a deck on the side of their house, or just an ear to bend while having a couple of beers after work. I was just the loser kid of everyone’s favorite citizen. Nobody wanted to be around me, much less do favors for me.
I never held it against them though. They were all entitled to their opinions. It was understandable to be wary about an individual who could fall asleep in the middle of a conversation. Once dad was gone I just tried to stay out of the way. People seemed to like me more when they forgot I was around.
I wished I didn’t have to deal with the daily questions on where I was, and whom I was talking to, but it was something I was forced to deal with, and something to which I had grown accustomed.
“Are you okay?” the girl with blonde hair, glasses, and blue eyes asked me after a few moments of me, as I called it, recalibrating. “You just sort of disappeared there.”
“Yeah,” I said, getting up, embarrassed for falling asleep in front of her. “Sorry.”
“Where are you going?” she asked, reaching out and grabbing me by the hand. “We were just getting started.”
I sat back down. Slowly I was remembering the situation I was in before I had succumbed to the will of my malady. She had sat down next to me at the coffee shop we were both patronizing and asked me if she could borrow my phone charger. There was light conversation about technology, coffee, movies, and then we started talking more about life, dreams, goals, family, and the heavier topics that many stray away from while getting to know people. She showed no fear in knowing what I wanted for my future and I, interested in having a real conversation with someone for the first time in years, told her the whole truth.
She told me she was new to the area, which made sense being that she was not predisposed to not speak with me. She had moved here on a whim because the name of our town was the same name of the town in which Romeo and Juliet lived and died. I told her I always referred to this town as “My Verona” instead of just Verona. She laughed and looked at me in a way I had never seen a girl look at me.
In those few moments before I fell asleep while talking to her I felt normal for the first time in longer than I could remember. I found myself looking into her soothing eyes and being filled with a sense of calm. In those eyes, in that moment, were the answers to every doubt I had about myself. Even though I had only just met her I had fallen in love with the idea of her, a phenomenon I had heard of before, but had never personally experienced.
“I have this condition,” I told her as I sat back down. “I have a tendency to fall asleep without warning. It keeps me from doing a lot of things I have always wanted to do.”
She looked at me with a kind look, her beautiful eyes filled with questions, but not the questions I had been asked my whole life about my condition. The corners of her mouth turned up slightly, and I could see this tiny chip in the corner of her front tooth, that, in that moment, I found to be adorable.
“Did you have a dream?” she asked.
“What?” I asked.
“Just now,” she said. “Well, actually, every time this happens, do you dream, or do you just wake up a few minutes later?”
I had never thought about it before she asked me that question. Every time I fell asleep, no matter how long I was under, I had a dream. Most of the time they were surreal vignettes that made little to no sense, but they were always there, playing like short David Lynch movies in my subconscious.
“Yeah,” I said. “Pretty much every time. I was just in Central America…surfing.”
She reached over and grabbed my hand gently, “Personally, I think your body allowing you to escape reality on a regular basis and go into a perfect world of hope and possibility makes you the luckiest guy in the world.”
I looked down at her hand, lightly holding onto mine, and I understood what those words meant for the first time since dad passed away.