No sleep tonight? No problem. You can toss and turn, then get jacked up on caffeine at work tomorrow. Shaking and stumbling through your shift like Hangover personified. The floor boss won’t give you any grief; he’s got several serious drunks topping off in the parking lot before the shift begins. You’ve told him about the recurrent insomnia and he’s happy you manage to show up at all. Just get through the day without cutting off a digit on the table saw and we can call it a win.
Roll over, again. Count breaths, empty your mind and, in five minutes you’ll already be back to replaying those video tapes in your head: The first real love of your life at sixteen years old, hair splayed out on the pillow beneath you like a plate of dark silk; the view of Naples from the deck of the USS Mullinix when you were twenty-one; your very first dog lying dead in the road and how you used the shovel from your father’s tool shed to pry it from where it had baked into the hot asphalt. You’ve got scads of home movies; Netflix would envy you. The trick now is to replace the ancient horror shows and sentimental weepers with fresh footage. If you must compose the scripts from fiction and fantasy, so be it.
Here’s the plot: Broken-down bachelor, alone in his bedsit, rediscovers sunlight and the sweetness of springtime. Takes a walk in the park and is delighted by children in the first bloom of their season. Inspired, our protagonist becomes quite daring, making eye contact with supermarket cashiers and—spoiler alert!–occasionally smiling. Before long, he is on a honeymoon with life, waking each morning to kiss it full on the mouth.
The poetry and prose of Robert L. Penick have appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, Plainsongs, and Slipstream. More of his work can be found at theartofmercy.net