Dreaming of Sleep by Jane Berkowitz

If you stay up for two nights straight studying or partying or listening to your cats meowing, the next day, during school or your fraternity meeting or your knitting circle, you will fall asleep and not even know it. Microsleeping. When you microsleep, you are asleep for five seconds, maybe half a minute at most, and then you jerk yourself awake. You don’t realize you were asleep. You are just five seconds older, with a gap in your schedule between 08:31:22 and 08:31:27. Sometimes people microsleep while they are driving. One moment they are looking for exit 67 and the next they’re in a ditch.

Gerald has been bobbing his head since this meeting started. He’s microsleeping. Michael just thinks he’s nodding ‘yes’ to everything. In 20 minutes, Gerald is going to walk out of Conference Room B and not remember a single thing. He will go back to his desk and think, wow I must have been spacing out the whole time. It won’t even screw him over when he can’t recall the updated format for the 2011 financial reports—they send out email reminders for these things.

Every second in this meeting is a second closer to the end of our lives. When I was a kid I thought the odometers on cars counted down instead of up. You would start with around 100,000 miles, and as you drove that number would click down until it reached 0 and you got a new car. Even when Gerald wakes up he is not watching his odometer—he’s just in transition between his last microsleep and his next one.

Michael says something but the words disappear before I hear them. I don’t think we have carbon monoxide alarms in here. If there was a gas leak Michael would die first because he’s breathing more. Gerald wouldn’t know what was going on, his head is too busy nodding up and down.

I look around the table. My coworkers live in and out of microsleeps. Every day is this meeting, and it doesn’t bother them. I want to shake them into consciousness. I want to throw my coffee in their faces. “This is it,” I want to tell them. “Pay attention, this is important.”

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