No nightmares here " just wide-eyed regrets
August 19, 2008
It’s 1 a.m. and sleep defies me. It’s the pillow, the cotton-poly bed sheets, the stupid Sleep Number Bed. I’m not an 11 or a 37 or an 86. Fat chance I’ll ever win the lottery … I can’t even pick the winning Sleep Number.
Ten more minutes tick off the clock. I throw off the covers and make for the kitchen, for a cup of chamomile tea, mumbling, “What’s your Sleep Number? Mine’s two grand.” Tomorrow, I’ll get the salesman on the phone, ask him why I don’t fall asleep smiling (like they do on the commercial), and demand a refund.
Fumbling for a bag of chamomile tea, I suddenly notice the moon. Its silhouette illuminates the curtain and triggers a nightmare that I’d rather forget: the Yellowstone wolves. They’re out there right now, I know, running in packs, howling, thinning out elk herds. Somewhere in Montana and Wyoming … and in the dark recesses of my brain.
Still, to this very day, they haunt me …
“You can’t miss them,” I overheard a local say while I fueled up on the outskirts of the national park. “Look for the mound with tripods, telephoto lenses and the National Geo geeks. But get there early; the wolves head for the trees when it gets hot.”
The news eased the pain of $2-a-gallon gas. I could hardly wait to tell my wife.
“Better set the alarm for 6 tomorrow,” I said.
“In the morning? Are you insane? It’s called vacation, not boot camp!”
“But we’re talking about the Yellowstone wolves, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s not like we can schedule an appointment.”
“I’m not getting up at 5 a.m. to do my hair and put on my face. That’s no vacation.”
“You don’t have to. Get up at 6. Just wear a cap. Paint your pretty little cheeks in the car. I’ll drive.”
“Earth to husband: I’m on vacation. I might want pictures … without bags under our eyes. I’m not getting up at the crack of dawn. Hello?”
End of discussion.
According to my calculation, we left the hotel two hours late the next morning, but I bit my lip and steered through the Beartooth Mountains in silence. At precisely 8:47 a.m., I spotted the tripods and a small group of khaki-clad photographers huddled over coffee cups. I pulled over, flung open the car door and sprinted toward them.
“Where are the wolves?” I asked, huffing, with a manic look in my eyes.
“You JUST missed ’em. They went back up the mountain five minutes ago,” one said, pointing to a nearby clump of pine trees.
“Sorry, dude. They were spectacular! So was the grizzly bear,” another added, patting me on the back. “Biggest one I ever saw.”
His words rattled in my head.
“Biggest one I ever saw,” I repeated, seething under my breath as I walked back to the car. “Somebody just shoot me now.”
Five years later, as I drain my tea cup, the wound still festers. Maybe I need to chat with Dr. Phil.
Insomnia has one perk: poking my head into the kids’ room, seeing them sprawled out in impossible positions, breathing deeply, looking like a Norman Rockwell masterpiece in their bunk beds. I straighten their covers, kiss their little foreheads and tell myself that they’re growing up too fast. Better hit Disneyland soon, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone. Yellowstone first. I have unfinished business there.
Wolves again. Every sleepless night for five years. Either I see them soon or I’m headed for therapy.
By stealth, I approach the Sleep Number Bed and reprogram it while my wife sleeps.
“Five stinking minutes late … because you had to look good for pictures,” I grumble, shaking my head. I slip under the covers and drift away instantly.
Go figure. That night at precisely 1:20 a.m., I discovered my Sleep Number. After stewing over being five minutes late five years ago, I punched in “55” and presto! No more counting sheep, no more wolf-induced insomnia, no need for shrinks … at least until the next full moon.
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