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Waking Life

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Each night when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.
—Mahatma Ghandi

I am going to tell you something, and I know you are going to think that I’m crazy and maybe you’re right. Maybe I am crazy. God I wish I were climbing-the-walls, toys-in-the-attic crazy, but something deep within me is telling me that I’m sane. Let’s get the craziness out of the way first. I have a most curious condition that has made my life very, let’s just say unpredictable. You see, every time I fall asleep, I wake up as some one else.

It isn’t something as simple as falling asleep and waking up in a different mood or mindset. No, every time I fall asleep, I wake up a different person. I guess I should elaborate a little more, so I’ll give you an example: At one time I was a teenage burnout living in California, I drifted off to sleep and I woke up a homeless man trying to survive on the streets of Moscow. I don’t transform into a new person while I sleep, that would be crazy, I wake up in someone’s body, hundreds maybe thousands of miles away. Suffice it to say, this is always a jarring experience.

By now you’re probably asking why don’t I just try and stay awake if the constant shifting is so bad and my answer to that is, don’t you think I haven’t tried? The longest I have managed to stay awake was a week straight. (I was genuinely happy in that body and didn't want to shift out of it.) Eventually I would drowse and awaken in an entirely new body. I have been the rich man, the poor pauper, the ugly man, the beautiful woman, the privileged suburbanite, and the disenfranchised immigrant. My waking life sends me through all genders, ages, cultures, classes, creeds, and perhaps most confusing of all, through all time lines.

That’s right. I can go to sleep as an affluent yuppie in the 80’s and wake up a Soviet dissident in the 70’s. To joke, I have led quite the checkered life. I have been in China for the Boxer Rebellion, in the trenches in Bastogne during WWII, in feudal Japan as a courtesan, a slave on a ship to a new land, and a romantic in the 19th century. Throughout my waking life, I have lived thousands if not hundreds of thousands of times. In my more solipsistic moments, I wonder if there is anyone else or if everyone I meet is just me at some other point in my life. I know that’s ridiculous, but when you witness something that your brain cannot wrap its mind around; you tend to come up with fanciful explanations.

Look at me, I’ve come this far and I haven’t even given you a proper introduction. Which in all honesty is going to be difficult. I mean with hundreds of identities and personalities, which is the true me? I typically just chose my earliest memory. I was four or five years old (In that body.), a woman was calling my name. I think she was my mother because my heart beat so fast and I was ecstatic to hear her voice. I think I was in a place called Ilium, New York. She called me, “William Pilgrim.”

With this condition, I think I have lived longer (At least experience-wise.) than most people. As a result, I am really interested in the why and how, questions like, “Why am I here?” and “How is this possible?” take up a lot of my time. I am constantly searching for those answers, but I am afraid I will never know the answer to those questions. It may be too late.

Since I am displaced in time, I have always wondered if it might be possible to encounter some other previous incarnation of myself. Due to my tendency to shift and wake up thousands of miles and thousands of years away from where I started, this has proven quite difficult. I am still hopeful that one day I may cross paths with one of my previous incarnations and be able to talk to them.

I don’t have a lot of time left. I can feel my eyes drooping and my head bobbing as I write all of this. I typically spend a day in the shoes of one of my reincarnations, but this time is different. This time I am happy, truly happy. I woke up to find myself nestled in the crook of a man’s arm. I woke up naked in his arms. He woke up when I stirred and smiled the most radiant smile I have ever seen. It was in that moment that I felt like he really loved me. I have been alive and awake for too long to get caught up in such foolish boundaries like heterosexual and homosexual. I have lived my life as an old man with his wife of fifty years and a young lesbian flitting from rocky relationship to rocky relationship. I have been bisexual and asexual. I think living as an asexual person was the saddest. I had never felt so alone in my life.

Back to the man whom I found myself intertwined with. He had black curly hair and a bit of swagger to him. His name was Ash and mine was Lola. From what I could tell, we were newlyweds and were still in our honeymoon phase. We have a large English Mastiff named Kazak. Ash doted on me and I fawned over him. Unconditional love is truly a rare thing. I think that is why I am typing this. (I still don’t know if I am going to leave this for Ash to read or if I am just going to fling this out into the immutable abyss of the internet.) I need to leave some sort of trace behind. Something to prove I was here after my inevitable fate.

Let me explain. I always wake up as someone new, someone different. I have done this thousands of times. I have woken up in the lap of luxury and come to in utter destitution in a ghetto in Warsaw. I have been incredibly lucky so far. I have avoided danger and death, but I don’t know for how much longer I can do this. All it takes is one bad luck-of-the-draw or poisonous probability and I will wake up on my way to a firing squad, gas chamber, or plasma incineration. (People in year 2358 like to pretend it is so humane, but the look on the prisoner’s face as his flesh is dissolved by plasma on live television begs to differ.) I know one of these days, I am going to wake up in death’s embrace and I have a feeling once that happens that my waking life is going to come to an end.

That thought has left my petrified. I don’t want to die. I am doing my best to stay awake, but it is difficult. I drink as much coffee and ingested as much caffeine as possible to stave off the sandman, but I know it is a losing battle. I will have to sleep eventually and when I next wake, I may find myself dying from a terminal disease or the victim of a senseless act of violence. I am trying to live every moment to the fullest with Ash and Kazak, but I know that as soon as I drift off, this part of my life is going to die.

It is a sobering thought. I never really thought of it that way until this moment. I am sitting at the coffee table with a laptop in front of me, an energy drink by my side, trying to cling onto these waning moments, and fighting off sleep and my inevitable demise. While I dream, I die. Those ideations, personality, and life are gone when I come to. All I have in this time of mine is my waking life and I am not finding it at all satisfactory.

I have been awake for three days straight. I am tired. I am at my limits. Living in this constant state of honeymoon bliss has really taken it out of me. Something tells me that I don’t have too many more metamorphoses left in me before I reach the end, my end. I want to live! I have experienced so much. I have so much more to experience. I’m drifting off as I type this. I think it is just about time to face the inevitability of death.

I have decided to throw this out into the Internet so people can know of my tale, but I am not going to share this information with Ash. It really is too crazy to believe and I would rather him not think me, or Lola to be insane. I am going to drift off in a few minutes and there are a few things I want to do before then. I don’t know how many more chances I will have to do what I want. I am going to scratch Kazak behind the ears and snuggle up next to Ash. I am going to put my head on his chest and let the hypnotic rising and falling send me to sleep. I am going to say a prayer (To which god I am unsure, I have worshiped and believed in so many gods after all.) that when I wake up next, it won’t be my last time waking up. Good night and goodbye.

Written by EmpyrealInvective
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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