The kind of person who goes places in the car between sleeps.

Last night, I had a little problem. I woke up after two hours of sleep feeling totally awake.

I unknowingly suffered from severe sleep apnea for years, due to a tiny throat cavity (thanks genetics, I owe you). For years, my body operated off of sub-par sleep every single day, so it still gets mixed up on occasion and thinks that two to three hours of real sleep is an absolute feast, and that we’re ready to get up for the day.

I don’t know what set off this energy last night. Maybe I was too hyped up from watching a documentary about Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hannah, who I have recently become obsessed with (at age 32—I know, I know). Maybe the cat came in and woke me up. Maybe the barometric pressure was off.

Anyway, I’m lying there waiting out what’s turning into a two-hour wakefest, when I have this horrible realization: I’m out of water for the humidifier portion of my CPAP.

CPAPs only use distilled water, which has to come from the store. You can unhook the humidifier, but pressurized air with no humidity is almost uncomfortable enough to preclude sleep anyway. Imagine the driest mouth you’ve ever woken up with. Now imagine taking that mouth and blowing cold, parched air over it for eight hours. Yeah.

I was low on water when I went to bed, and the sleeping in I’ll have to do to make up for my awake hours will almost certainly take me past the point of having any water left, meaning the inside of my mouth will die and go to hell and peel off by the time I wake up.

I’m writhing at the injustice of this fate when it hits me: I could get up and go to the store.

At two in the morning? I think. It seems ridiculous. I’m 32. I drink tea and own a cat and live in a suburb. People like us don’t get out of bed in the middle of the night and go places in their car fully intending to get back in bed when they return. We just don’t. I have never done this in my life, not even in college.

But there’s that empty CPAP tank.

I have no way to resolve the standoff in my mind.

What would Kathleen Hannah do? I think.

Kathleen Hannah would go to the store at 2 a.m.

I pull on warm clothes and head to the car. I shut the door quietly, so the neighbors won’t hear and look out their bedroom windows and see that I have become the kind of person who goes places in the car at 2 a.m. between sleeps. I buckle up and pause before pulling out. I’m alone in the car with our iPod hooked up. I almost never get the iPod to myself, and there’s stuff on there I don’t listen to with Jaron, like the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack. My fingers hover over the controls as I decide whether I really want to get my adrenaline hyped up this late.

But Kathleen Hannah would definitely listen to the Mad Max soundtrack on the way to the store.

So, to the sound of Max and Furiosa charging the war rig through the hostile canyon, I roll into the Shop ‘N Save parking lot.

I go in for my distilled water. On the way, I remember we’ve run out of some medicine cabinet supplies, and that I was going to cook my free employee turkey from the college tomorrow but don’t have a baking dish big enough. I present the cashier with an eclectic assortment of distilled water, Pepto Bismol, and a turkey baking pan. The cashier has a conversation with me. She regularly works the night shift and never has anyone to talk to, apparently.

Back in the car, I slide through the wet night. Things are misty and soaked from an earlier rain, and the air has an electric smell like spring, though it’s way too early for that. I’m suddenly awash with memories of going out at this time of night with Jaron when we were both in college.

I slow down in the parking lot. For a weird, sleep-deprived moment, the feeling is so strong that I expect to actually see my college self strolling across the parking lot. I’ve been looking for that girl, for that midnight feeling, for years—all throughout my disappointing 20s. Maybe tonight’s the night I’ll see her again. I’ll jump out of the car with, “Rachel! Where’ve you been?” and her, the real me, will merge back into my body and I’ll actually be myself again, for the first time since age 21.

I don’t see her in front of me, but a thought occurs. She’s already in the car.

She got up at 2 a.m. and decided to go on an adventure based on a game of WWJD with Kathleen Hannah. If anybody would do such a thing, it would be her—not 32-year-old whoever-I-thought-I’d-become. That means that all this time I’ve been looking for the real Rachel, she’s been…with me. Inside me. Hiding for some reason (okay, a lot of reasons, most of which have to do with adult-ing, which I resign to absolutely stop doing from now on).

It’s like an 11-year version of “Where are my glasses? Oh right, on my head.”

I blaze home through a rainy wonderland with Mad Max still blaring.

2 Replies to “The kind of person who goes places in the car between sleeps.”

  1. After I left a long career in missions and found that secular employers felt that qualified me for…nothing…I ended up spending six years as a night cashier in a store like the one you visited. Stories like yours, people who probably had never dreamed (get it?) they would shop in the middle of the night, were common. Someone like that came in two or three times a week, often seeming to wonder why they were there. Many were still in pajamas and I congratulate you on actually getting dressed before going out. Most came for a specific item they needed or for something they were obsessing about and couldn’t get back to sleep until they got it. Buying a few extra things while they were there was common. Men who came in for their wife’s sanitary supplies usually loaded up a cart to disguise the actual purpose of their trip. Such shoppers were usually the highlight of a long and tedious night so take comfort in the fact that you probably made someone’s night.

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