"In London there is a man who screams when the church bells ring. He lives all alone with his streaked cat in Gray's Inn, and people call him harmlessly mad." ~H.P. Lovecraft, "The Descendant"
Somewhere in the suburbs of Dallas/Fort Worth, meanwhile, there is a man who really wants to scream at all the little sounds that keep interrupting the night. He'd like to be asleep; he'd like to be dreaming; but his house is far too silent. No buffer exists between his half-dozing awareness and the endless range of incidental sounds that keep pulling him back from the edge of real sleep. A car starts somewhere outside, and he stirs. The cat snores on the chair beneath his bed, and he rolls over, forcing himself to ignore it. The heater starts, pushing warm air through the vents, and he groans silently to himself; he groans again when it stops. A faint tickle comes and goes at the back of his throat, gathering itself each time he nears the sweet release of his nightly oblivion. Across the house, one of the children coughs or grinds his teeth, and he hears that too. His wife's iPad dings (randomly, loudly, somewhere in the darkness) and he twitches fully awake. There is no escape. He has been lying there, eyes closed, immobile, almost sleeping but never quite getting there, for the last two hours.
He changes beds, moving to his son's room where he can turn on an air filter and drown out everything else, but it's too late. He's missed his chance.
The house never settles. The house is never quiet. And while he used to sleep like a rock, for the last few nights every single sound (no matter how tiny or familiar) pulls at his attention, calls him back to the world.
He is restless, unsettled. In his younger days, he might have gone for a walk; but he's pretty sure there's no way he can get out of the house without waking everyone else. He could play video games, maybe burn off a little adrenaline that way, but the console is in the living room and the boys have taken that room over: they've both decided to sleep on the couch. Reading would pass the time, but it would get him no closer to sleep. The same can be said for watching a movie.
He thinks the holidays have about done him in. He worked all the days around them, taking no extra time off, and since the holidays fell in the middle of the week this year... Well, it's a day or two of work, off for a day or two, a day or two of work, a weekend, a day or three of work, off for a day, two days of work, another weekend... He barely knows if he's coming or going. All the holiday events have been lovely individually, but crowded together like this they were just too much. The boys have been staying up later, too -- Why not? It isn't as if they have to get up for school -- so trying to get them to settle down for bed is like being caught in one of those old Bugs Bunny cartoons.
So now he's sitting at the kitchen table, typing -- not working on a story, ha-ha, no, mustn't think we could get anything done -- and drinking a glass of milk. He's wondering if a glass of something stronger might help, but he's already had the two Benadryl; and anyway, he has to be at work in the morning. It's after midnight; so much for getting to sleep early and being bright and rested for tomorrow. So much for doing anything worthwhile, really. He'll just have to push on through, even though that makes it much more likely that tomorrow night will be a repeat of this one.
Somewhere in the suburbs of Dallas /Fort Worth is a man who really, really wishes he could sleep.