Day 24 —Write about the longest amount of time you’ve ever gone without sleeping.
I was aware that time was passing but in the anxiety of the moment it had no rational association. It was simply more background noise, along with the voices that I could hear but whose hushed words did not reach me. There are smells that drift past me, including the smell of sweaty anxious bodies in close proximity and the aroma of deodorants that have ceased to be effective.
If I focus my eyes I see the source of the smells and beyond that the voices murmuring softly behind them. Those closest to me do not speak, we do not make eye contact and we barely move. The anxiety is derived in our purpose for being here, together, at this time. There is building excitement with each person that falls away from our inner circle.
It is the second night of no sleep and remaining in an upright position. The level of exhaustion is reducing the ability of the participants to engage in conversation. The short scheduled breaks for toileting are not long enough to allow a shower so the smells in the enclosed space are multiplying. There are no windows to help decrease the odor and it is slowly becoming a major irritant.
Two days of no sleep and I realise that I am spending a lot of time staring into space. I am unable to even relax for fear of losing my grip. I hold on for the breaks and the chance to let go and walk the short distance to the toilets. In this short period we can have a bite to eat and drink but remain mindful of the fact that it is some time before the next toilet break.
The exhaustion must be getting to me because I had forgotten to explain why I was on my second night of no sleep. It is to win the house that we are standing outside of. To succeed we have to be the last person holding onto the wide red ribbon that wraps around the house. A day ago we were spread out around the house with only those closest to us visible. Since we got down to the final ten people we have all been placed on the same side of the house.
There is an external wrap of plastic that creates walls and roof. It is drape on temporary scaffolding for the period of this competition. This prevents the weather impacting on us. However, in this artificial large “room” it is very hot during the day. The sun heats up the plastic. There are no openings to let in a breeze for relief from both the heat and the smells. Furthermore, the artificial nature of the environment adds to my growing sense of detachment.
My whole focus is on retaining my grip and winning this house. I try to let the goal be the loudest thought to drown out the thoughts of laying down and sleeping. I can sleep in this wonderful home when I win it. I just hope the thoughts of sleep and laying down hammer my competitors for the house. I hope their hands glisten with the sweat that “perfumes” the air and causes their hand to slip off the ribbon.
Suddenly, I jerk awake. I realise that I am sitting in the lazy boy beside the bed of my dying Nana C, where I have camped out for the past two weeks. The house competition had been a dream, swiftly occurring because of the short periods of sleep I can capture in this room off a busy hospital ward. I think it symbolised how much I have been missing sleeping in my own bed. You can guess the source of the smells and sounds permeating my sleep.
I feel my right hand slowly waking up and realise that I had tightly grasped a book my Nana C had gifted me. I guess my exhausted mind was tightly gripping onto this book in the hopes that my Nana C could be as tightly bound to remaining with us. I can not even remember how long it has been since I last slept a full night but I would not begrudge a moment of the time with her for the equivalent time in sleep.
Later I might want the hours of sleep where I could once more lay on the couch while Nana C brushed my hair or I sat at her kitchen table eating her wonderful porridge. But at this moment I trade sleep for more precious time with my Nana C. as we slowly face that soon she will not be physically with us.
Writers note: This is a bit disjointed and I may return to it to make it more cohesive.