Me: OK brain. I don’t like you and you don’t like me. Let’s just get this sleep thing happening and we’ll both feel better in the morning.
Brain: No can do, seÃ±or.
Me: What? Why?
Brain: I’m too tired. You’ll have to find something else to do for a while.
Me: Too tired… to sleep? That doesn’t even make sense.
Brain: It does when you think about it. And I’m too tired to think about it. So don’t ask.
Me: What are you talking about?
Brain: * sigh * OK. Here’s the deal. In order for you to sleep…
Me: Us. In order for US to sleep. Not me. Us.
Brain: Well, no. Mostly just you. I’m still pretty active even when you’re asleep so it’s not quite the magical rejuvenating “just lay there and feel better later without actually doing any work” thing it is for you. There’s not that much in it for me.
Me: But you haven’t let me sleep well for like 18 years. What’s all this rejuvenation you speak of?
Brain: Whatever. Anyway, in order for “us” to get to sleep, I have to send this tiny squirrel here to the other side of your brain to flip the sleep switch. And today, there are just not enough calories left to send him on his merry little way.
Me: But how many calories could it possibly take to send a tiny squirrel from one side of my brain to the other?
Brain: Well I’m not some kind of Farmer’s Almanac for brain squirrel calorie consumption, but if I had to ballpark it, I’d say it was in the neighborhood of 3.
Me: 3 calories? Like 2 Tic Tacs?
Me: But we’ve burned a hundred times that with this inane internal dialogue!
Brain: Sure, but those calories have already been preallocated.
Me: Preallocated to “inane internal dialogue?”
Brain. Yep. (You might want to look into changing that. That could be one of your problems right there.)
Me: But I ate two green chile cheeseburgers tonight? That should be more than enough calories to fuel the squirrel. That’s a surplus of calories based on my body weight! A surplus!
Brain: Sorry, you spent 10 hours lifting alpacas and shit today. Those calories aren’t a surplus when your body can use them.
Me: Alpacas? Oh right, that whole “alpaca shearing” thing I volunteered for. That was crazy, right?
Brain: Word. You’ve got to stop helping people out. I keep telling you.
Me: Man am I with you there… But what about beer? There’s plenty of calories in beer, isn’t there? And I even had that fourth one last night that I didn’t really want. I opened it without thinking and was like, Oh I guess I need to drink you after all.
Brain: I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t make these decisions, you do.
Me: Huh. Can’t I just get up and drink some V8 Splash or something? A chocolate chip cookie would surely provide 3 calories which could be used to push me over the edge into sleepyland?
Brain: Well, you could try if you’re awake anyway. But I’m pretty sure those calories wouldn’t really do anything for you until tomorrow. You simply don’t have enough energy to go to sleep right now.
Me: What? Why would I have to wait until tomorrow for the calories to work?
Brain: I don’t know, biology or something. I’m your brain, not your alimentary tract. What do you want me to say?
Me: This is crazy. Not enough energy to go to sleep? Well what the hell am I supposed to do until morning then?
Brain: Well, let’s see. I mean, there’s plenty of stuff. You could stare into the darkness. I guess I could wiggle your legs and/or feet for you?
Me: Hey! Wouldn’t that take calories?
Brain: Yeah, but you’ve already allocated some of them to stuff like this. Good to go if you want to. (You might want to look into that, too. Seems kind of antithetical to that sleep thing you keep whining about. What’s done is done though.)
Me: No sleep tonight, huh.
Brain: Nope. OK, well there’s one little something I can do for you – when your wife starts snoring, I can make you think you were about to go asleep, but then you’ll wake completely up each time she snores. Then you can start the day feeling some righteous outrage, like someone robbed you of that sleep you weren’t actually ever going to get anyway.
Me: Uh, nah. That doesn’t sound helpful.
Brain: It’s better than nothing. Really – it would be like you’d be almost asleep… SNORE… wide awake. Drifting, drifting, almost asleep… SNORE… wide awake. At least you’d mix in a bunch of almost-asleep moments. If you put 1,400 or 1,500 of those moments together, that’s almost like sleeping.
Brain: Oh, come on.Â You KNOW there’s a full moon tonight. You might as well be a werewolf, you ain’t stayin’ asleep. Face it.
Me: Man, fuck this. I’m getting up to read.
Brain: Not this time, buttercup. Your body is assed-out tired. You personally lifted 25 or 30 animals that were like 150 pounds each. Since you’re going to be awake all night, you should try to do that math. It’s a lot of pounds to lift though. Like 90,000 or something. But I’ve got you. No “warm milk and a book” fallback plan tonight.
I mean, dude – you’re 40 years old. You can’t go out and lift alpacas for a day and not expect to pay some kind of price. So here we are.
Me: Â Damn.
Brian: Well, don’t say I didn’t offer you any alternatives. Â I mean, first you wanted to sleep, now you don’t want to not-sleep. There’s just no helping you.
Brain: Oh, all right. Here’s what I’ll do. Tonight’s a total wash, there’s nothing I can do about it. But you know when the sun starts to come up and you hear the birds singing?
Me: Yeah? Like when I smell my wife starting to make coffee?
Me: Like the exact moment where I realized I’ve made it through the night without sleeping and have to get up soon to start a new week of drudgery running on fumes alone?
Brain: Nice, exactly! Just then, right at that moment when you’re completely aware that you aren’t gettin’ any tonight, let’s do this: you’ll suddenly get all comfortable and warm and feel irresistibly tired. Â You’ll pass reliably into a deep sleep. Probably have some crazy dreams about assembly lines or whales or some shit.
Me: Well, then I’d at least start the day by waking up, right?
Brain: Exactly! But it will only work if you have less than, say, ten minutes for the whole operation.
Me: So you’ll let me sleep, but only if it’s guaranteed that I won’t get in more than about five minutes.
Brain: Riiigggggghhhhhttt. You got it now.Â If I, Brain, get the vibe that you could squeeze in like 20 minutes of sleep, ain’t nothin’ happening. Simple as that.
Me: Wait – why will the ‘sleep squirrel’ suddenly have its 3 calories in the morning though? Where would those 3 calories suddenly come from? Wait – what the fuck am I even talking about? This doesn’t make any sense at all, and I OWN you, Brain. You should just do what I want.
Brain: You DO own me, and I AM doing what you want. You think I’m forcing this stupid internal quacking on you? At some level, you WANT this. Otherwise you’d stop doing it, right? (But then what would poor, tormented you complain about?)
Me: Complain? I’ve got plenty of things to complain about. I don’t need this.
Brain: You’re the boss. Then again, if you really believed any of that, we wouldn’t be here now. Keep telling yourself whatever makes you happy though. Some people aren’t happy unless they’re miserable.
Me: I’m not one of those people!
Brain. Sure, sure.
Me: Damn. Well, whatever. I’m going seriously work at changing some of my priorities soon. Like tomorrow. New priorities. I’m not doing this shit any more. I’ve had enough of it.
Brain: Gee, I’ve never heard any of this before. You must be really serious this time. (I wish I had some way to indicate that I’m rolling my eyes at you right now. Metaphorically.)
Brain: Yeah. I gotta be me. (Which is to say, I gotta be YOU.)
Me: All right, all right. Let’s just do this thing.
Brain: No time like the endless present.
Me: One thing – is this brain squirrel thing for real?
Brain: Man, you really DO need some sleep. *snicker* Â See you tomorrow!