...the group blog of The National
Somewhere between the garbage truck and the dawn call to prayer, I get lost
Ann Marie McQueen
I have a very hard time sleeping in Abu Dhabi. I have suffered from some of the most severe bouts of insomnia in my life over the last six months. Just as the dawn call to prayer signals I have stayed out way too late, hearing it when I have failed to grab even one Z is incredibly disheartening.
I am not sure what the issue is. Problems and worries and demons always seem bigger at night, manageable in the light of day. Sometimes I just get excited about all the fun things I have planned to do in this region. Or I miss the world's most comfortable bed, which I invested in just a few months before I decided to fly the coop on my old life. Other nights it's something Seinfeld's Kramer dubbed "jimmy legs", which happens when your brain is tired and your body is jumpy and ready to go. Of course, you can also get jimmy brain, where no matter what your level of physical exhaustion, the mind just won't quit.
Abu Dhabi doesn't do much to help, either. If it isn't the sound of fighting cats, sounding for all the world as though they are being sawed in half, it's the city's love of horn honking that prevents me from sinking into deeply restful REM patterns. One night I grew murderous, counting honks — not a car alarm, an extremely impatient (yet patient?) human was at the wheel — for more than 20 minutes outside my hotel.
The people on the floor above me seem to really enjoy their late-night furniture rearranging sessions. There is the dumpster outside my window, which is loudly emptied in the wee hours of each morning — after midnight, one or 2 am, it's hard to pinpoint exactly with two pillows flopped on my head. Oh, and the call to prayer, broadcast loudly from the mosque that is steps away. If, blessedly, I manage to remain out for that one, another follows soon after that is sure to jolt me awake.
New mothers and those who work the late shift have more to complain about than I do, of course. And strong Bodum coffee administered in small amounts throughout the day works wonders in pretending to be normal.
The only thing worse, I find, than worrying about not sleeping last night is worrying about whether I will sleep tonight. Thinking like this is almost a clear guarantee that I won't, so I do my best to pretend I don't have a problem when of course I really do. I can tell that I do, because both eyelids are twitching at the moment, and I believe I actually just nodded off while recounting the problem with horns.
So forgive me if I snap, or take a few more seconds to process what it is you are saying, or make no sense at all. I'm exhausted — I haven't been sleeping. Or have I told you?