I woke to the repulsive sound of retching. At least that's what I thought it was. My eyes blinked open and I tried to sort out the shadows in our bedroom. The TV was on but muted. Flashes of light would fade to darkness between commercials. After the jolt awake, I could hear my heart thrumming in my ear and felt my chest wobble as my heart searched for the regular rhythm. I attempted to slow down my heart beat by inhaling through my nose and forcing hard breath out of my mouth. I heard the sound again, but this time it was a little more like a hacking cough. It was coming from outside. I looked at the clock. 2:59 a.m. If I fall asleep within a minute, I can still get in two and half hours of sleep. The retching sound came again. The noise was a harsh gag and sounded like a man who was coughing, then choking on what the he expelled. Gross. I slipped out of bed and walked to the window. I ran my fingers along the blinds and pried open two of the slats to get a wider view. The dust on my fingertips generates a mental sticky note to add to the cleaning list for Saturday.
I didn't see anything right away, only gray mist, street lamps and house lights. Then I noticed the shadow of a man walking from my neighbor's driveway into the middle of the street. It appeared he was making unhurried steps while staying within the circle of the street lamp. I couldn't make out his face or age because his back was facing me. He was hunched over and I saw puffs of smoke coming around him. He looked cold because of the way his neck and shoulders collapsed like a turtle's neck in the collar of his jacket. At first, I thought it was his breath condensation but then I saw the amber glow of the end of a cigarette. The man was smoking at three in the damn morning. Then coughing. Then hacking. Followed by retching sounds. Repeat.
My husband hears none of this. I'm jealous. I watch him rollover, kick a leg from underneath the covers and then return to same rise and fall breathing pattern. I decide against waking him even though that is normally what I would do. I'm growing as a person and I commend myself. I walk down the hall and peek in the kids' rooms. They are sprawled out in their beds like open mouthed starfish. They haven't heard anything either and for that I'm grateful. Thunderstorms normally get them up because of last April's tornado which leveled some homes near ours. Coughing-hacking man is not enough to wake them and I'm glad.
I'm awake. I'm annoyed. I have less than two hours even if I fall asleep right now.
I crawl back into bed and for a brief moment take pleasure in the coolness of the sheets. My hip finds it's comfort spot in the mattress and asks my eyes to shut it down. But they won't and I can't make them. I'm awake and I'm thinking. My brain was running on high octane and I won't even bother with my standard visualization technique. It's the one where I see myself removing my brain, setting it on the dresser and telling myself that I can't think because my brain is somewhere else so go the hell to sleep.
But sleep has eluded me before and won't bother trying to wrestle me down now. It useless because I'm thinking about coughing guy. What would trouble his mind enough that he needed to grab a smoke in the middle of the night? What could possibly be going on in his life that a couple of drags of nicotine would steel his nerves or better help him cope with his issues? Why does he need a smoke badly enough that with every drag he was convulsing?
I don't hear him anymore which makes me think he's gone back inside my neighbor's house. Curiosity gets in the bed with me and pushes me to the edge of the mattress. Is smoker guy a guest? An older son? A healthcare overnight nurse of some kind? That can't be right. Dear reader, if you're anything like my husband, you might think - why do you even care? You don't know him. You probably won't see him again. He belongs to your neighbor in some way. His addiction woke you up and you're still thinking about it. You've determined he's not a threat to society, so go back to sleep, right?
But this is what I thought about until I heard the three beeps from the coffee pot. It isn't Jesus who wakes me up at night. He will give me rest. He will allow me to sleep. No, what wakes me up is usually something dark and generates fear in me. Almost everything seems worse when I wake up in middle of the night, even if I was sleeping fine until I heard something awful outside my window. All of my problems seem unmanageable, worries are exponentially expanded and anxiety, self-doubt, restlessness and feelings of hopelessness all seem more overwhelming at 3:00 a. m.. That's why sometimes I wake my husband. God love him. Anyway, it's not Jesus who gets me up to chat, but He's more than willing to sit with me while I talk about what's on my mind. He will always be there to help you through whatever you're facing. Turn on the lamp beside the bed and start talking. Or if you're outside underneath a street lamp, He's listening.
Seeds to share:
Matthew 11:28 - Come to me all you who are who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.
Lamentations 2:19 - Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.