Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting older but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to sleep.
When I was 15, I could fall asleep sitting up in class while my brother Jack had a freakish ability to sleep with his eyes wide open.
“Oh my God, I wish I could do that!” my sister once said with an equal mix of admiration and resentment when Jack slept right through one of our mother’s dull lectures about the importance of straight As, all while managing to look remarkably alert.
“His eyes never moved from mum’s face!” Michelle told her best friend, Betty Chan who said that her brother once slept through an earthquake.
“Seriously, what is it with boys?” Michelle asked crossly, completely unaware that many years later, she’d still be asking the same question.
Anyway, my point is, back in the day, it was easy to sleep.
These days, I’m like Sleeping Beauty with OCD. The room temperature has to be just right. If it’s too cold, I toss. Too warm, I turn. The bed sheets have to be folded back just so. It helps if I’ve had a nice hot cup of chamomile tea just before getting into bed. I can’t have any noise. Which means I usually can’t sleep until my flatmates have turned in, otherwise the sound of their gossiping in the kitchen will keep me awake.
And when I finally fall asleep, I am plagued by dreams. A rotating cast of people from my past will show up. I’ll be in taxis that are lost. I make my way through Takashimaya but the layout has changed, so I spend a lot of time wandering the aisles. I suddenly realize that I have an exam in half an hour for which I’ve not studied. Sometimes, I’m sitting on the loo in a public place and there are a lot of people I know around me and I’m trying desperately to be discrete. In other dreams, I’m wandering around wearing just a tee-shirt and no pants or underwear.
Of course, I wake up exhausted.
“Maybe you’re sleeping too much?” Saffy said the other day on Skype during her lunch hour.
“Eight hours isn’t too much, is it?” I asked.
“Maybe you only need six? They say the older you get…” I disconnected Skype.
“Try drinking some sherry before bed,” my mother suggested.
“She must have mistaken me for her!” I told my sister.
Amanda finally suggested that I might be having some psychic problems and dragged me to her regular psychic, a chubby good-natured Filipina called Mel.
Mel shuffled her tarot cards, laid them all out in a row and solemnly announced that my grandmother was trying to get in touch with me. I said this was physically impossible as both my grandmothers are dead. Then I remembered where I was and who I was talking to and said, “Oh.”
Then I added, “Oh, God, no!”
“It’s your father’s mother. She’s trying to send you a message!” Mel said in the same tone that your office receptionist might use when you ask if anyone called while you were out at lunch.
“What does she want?”
“It’s not clear,” Mel said firmly. “But you have to be more receptive to her messages. You’re blocking her, that’s why you can’t sleep!”
“God, what does she expect?” Saffy later said. “If my dead grandmother was trying to get in touch with me, I’d be blocking her too!”
“Maybe she’s trying to tell you where the rest of her fortune is hidden?” said Amanda, Professional Gold Digger.
“Did Mel say how you’re meant to be more receptive?” Saffy asked.
“Well, apparently, now that I know the cause of my sleep issues, every night before I sleep, I’m meant to ask her what she needs to tell me.”
My mother thinks the whole thing is just so typical of her dead mother-in-law, whom she never got on with. “She was such an attention seeker when she was alive. Why am I not surprised that even when she’s dead, she’s still trying to hog the limelight! If you ever get to speak to her, tell her I said so!”
Leave it to Sharyn to put things in perspective. “Aiyoh, you, ah! Where got such thing, one! You think dead people have nothing better to do, is it? I see the way you eat dinner – big steak, big plate of rice, big cake, of course you can’t sleep, what! You got indigestion, lah!”
Still, I’m not taking any chances. Tonight, I’m sleeping with a rosary. And just in case, I’ve also taken three antacid tablets.