Last week, I forayed outside my village inn bubble to visit some friends living in San Francisco. The drive ended up being far better than my now small town mind feared it would be (Traffic! Dreaded traffic!), and it felt natural to be back in a teeming cosmopolitan city. I relaxed into the crowdedly narrow streets, the quirky bakeries, the mobs of pedestrians, and the dogs running gaily about in every open space – and I reveled in memories of café conversations and sidewalk strolls and books in the park and simply existing in the middle of the throbbing pulse of a city.
The first night too felt right. It brought back memories with the twinkling of the city lights in the darkness – memories of movies and sharing food with friends and going out to dance. But as I lay down to sleep on my friends’ couch, I realized that amidst all these comfortable memories, there was something I had gotten completely out of touch with – the art of sleeping in the city.
It’s a tricky thing, this sleeping in the city. First, those beautifully twinkling lights that never go out… well, they never go out. It’s never really dark. Then, there is the upstairs neighbor watching TV and practicing his best impression of a hippo doing ballet. And those carefree carousers on the street outside and the cars and the buses and the midnight dog walkers. It’s never really quiet.
My friend put out a pair of earplugs for me before going to bed herself, “Just in case,” she said. I let the earplugs lie there the first two nights, saying to myself, “I don’t need those, I am a pro at sleeping in the city. I can handle it.” Ha! I finally caved the third night and then had to admit to myself with chagrin that it was the only night I really slept very much.
As I drove back up the windy road home that last day, I found myself fantasizing about the peace and quiet of my room in the woods, where it’s always dark unless the moon is full and the breeze brings no sound more disruptive than the sway of the trees. Ah yes, THAT is where sleeping is at its best.
I fell asleep that night, content to be back in my own quiet bubble… only to be awaken early the next morning by the frantic barking of some neighbor’s dogs and the incessant monotone squawk of some bird that had decided to declaim its woes right outside my window.
I sighed. Where had I put those earplugs?