Dec 30, 2014, 10:11AM

Insomniacs in America

We have it easy, and not at all.

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Insomniacs in America don’t have fires to build, hunks of log to busy their hands with, soot-covered fingers to wipe on wool long johns. They don’t have hot embers to dodge as they sit perched on a wooden stool, leaning their faces into the crackle of the flames. Instead they have the glow of laptops and TVs and tablets; a silent, artificial light that strains their eyes and rattles the mind.

Insomniacs in America have clean, running water to drink. They don’t pour a glass of water, obtained from the local well, take a sip, and hope that their immune system is strong enough to avoid a case of diarrhea.

Insomniacs in America don’t have the threat of cold, dark mornings. Walks where the wind bites and pinches at your skin, freezing nose hair and leaving cheeks a violent red. There are 20 minutes of quick steps, weaving between wild dogs and tireless men on motorcycles. The mornings that begin with 50 bleary-eyed children struggling to form their mouths around the “s” and “v” sound.

Insomniacs in America don’t have the restricted, slippery surroundings of a sleeping bag rated at keeping you alive on the peak of Mt. Rainier. Or the scratchy felt of a Mongolian blanket under their cheek. They don’t have a lopsided bundle of a mosquito net that’s been pushed to the corner—long forgotten since the spidery nights of summer.

Insomniacs in America have toilets. They can pad over to them in socked feet with eyes half-open. They don’t have to pull on boots and coats and walk outside to an outhouse. They don’t have to step on precarious floorboards and pray they don’t slip on the frozen urine and fall into the contaminated depths below.

Insomniacs in America don’t have hot yak’s milk, lovingly given by a Khas mom. Or fellow teachers who firmly press hunks of cold, greasy horse meat into their palms or hordes of neighborhood children who help them to their feet after they’ve fallen into a snowbank for the third time. They don’t have my massive sky—full of more stars than I’ve ever imagined could exist. They don’t have the icy emptiness of nights that burn the throat and bring a frozen tear to my eye.


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