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Grad-Lagged

Because of my husband’s and my full-time graduate student status, we are prone to dramatic schedule deviance that leaves us waking up later and later in the day after working long into the night/morning on papers and projects. We are both natural night owls and our evening classes do nothing to encourage character-building attempts at early rising. What I’m getting at is that we do not operate like the rest of the sane world. It is not strange for us to awaken at 3 or 4 pm and go to bed at 6 or 7 am…regularly…until one of us has some bothersome 10 am meeting that throws our life into a tizzy during which we try to readjust to being awake during daylight and asleep during darkness, but now that we are growing a little older, it’s not as easy to rearrange the schedule as it used to be. Last time we successfully switched back it took 4-7 days to normalize…sounds just like jet-lag, but it’s not, it’s grad-lag.

The other “night” was a perfect example. Trying to sleep when your body digs in its heels and flat-out refuses has a number of drawbacks. First, there is usually some [important] reason why you are trying to get a good night’s sleep in the first place and as you watch the minutes and hours cheerfully blink by on the glow-in-the-dark clock, you can get pretty upset pretty quickly. On the night in question, we hit the hay early (say 3 am), and lay there awake…and…awake…a n d a w a k e for about an hour, but things were okay, we were chatting and laughing and trying not to let it get us down. At this point you usually aren’t too concerned because you know that you aren’t really trying.

Another hour goes by and moods aren’t flying so high anymore, the birds are out there twittering amiably, but in my present state of mind, I hear nothing but their mean-spirited laughter. In the early stages of frustration (but not despair) I announce, “If I can’t sleep, I’m going to try to get something done!” The air fairly tingles with the no-nonsenseness of my voice. He agrees and we come out and work for about 3 hours. Phew, good! Got some of the stress off my back, and my eyes are stinging with tiredness and my head is fuzzy and everything I see looks kind of far away, like I’m looking through glasses with too strong a prescription — surely sleep will come now!

So down we go again, only to realize that the beautiful spring day that beckons outside our two windows is so freaking bright! Usually we sleep right through this period and are blissfully unaware of the glorious Pennsylvania morn. But now it’s high-noon and hot all of a sudden! After hurling the quilt to the foot of the bed, we lie there as ill-feeling grows.

Now what? Oh no. What is that smell?! What is that?! The neighbor downstairs is making lunch – a very heady lunch. Tom is still wondering what it could be, but with my keen chef’s instinct, I have already deduced that the man downstairs is dining on vat of pure garlic with a side of cooked onions. It’s streaming straight up through the heat vent from the floor below and the bedroom fan is propelling this noisome odor directly into our faces.

Now I’m out of bed, I can’t find my glasses, and I’m groping the heat vent, fondling cobwebs, and scraping my hands on the ancient metal vent blades. I am looking for one of those levers that might close up the vent. The odor is intolerable, practically making our eyes water. It’s so strong and so FOODY; and not in a good way, like the “oh, Miss Bessie must be baking a batch of her cranberry muffins”-way. Not like that.

There is no lever on the bedroom vent so I shove the fan in the opposite direction toward the wall to deflect the reekage, but Tom isn’t for that – it’s too hot. So he opens all the windows in the apartment. Instantly the room feels better and the aroma from the garlic-onion surprise recedes. We collapse back into bed, exhausted, and have just closed our eyes in true relief when one of the beach towels that hangs over the window as a light-blocker begins flapping madly and falls down. Now it is as bright as the surface of the sun, and we are starting to get a little crazed.

Calmly, Tom closes the windows to a crack, hangs the towel back up and climbs back into bed. Seconds later, he is up again, riffling through my dresser drawers, looking for a scarf to tie around his head as a sleep mask. He finds something and offers me one, too. I am too busy pounding my fist on the mattress like a 5-year-old and shouting, “I’M FURIOUS! I’M FURIOUS!” to reply. I scoff at the idea of tying the scarf around my eyes, but reconsider a few minutes later after staring balefully at the dents in the ceiling. We’ve never been able to figure out how they got there, and as I’m reconsidering the question, I reach for my sleep-mask.

At last, at long last we manage to drift off.

I awaken at 6 pm, even more in the hole than when we started trying to fix our schedule. I wonder why it is so dark. Oh, the sleep mask. I slip it off and look over. Tom looks like a sleeping ninja with his head bound up in a pair of my black opaque tights; one of the stocking feet rests demurely on his chest, which is rising and falling peacefully with his blessed, hard-earned sleep.

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3 Responses

  1. It was quite a night, and in the delightful sequel that we are currently living, we are up at 2 a.m. after sleeping from 3-11 p.m.

    Grad-lag was a fantastic way to put it, but the strange thing is that there tends to be rhyme and reason in jet-lag, whereas in grad lag, it’s ALL OVER THE PLACE.

    A beautifully told account, my love. Sadly lacking in sexual piquancy ;), though.

  2. Well, I wouldn’t want anyone rating my innocent knitting blog as “mature.” :o)

  3. oh, what a story! i loved reading it!

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