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Today, 4:30 a.m.
I stare into darkness, awake and exhausted. To my right, my clock ticks and the seconds rush through me. To my left, my wife sleeps, her breath at peace. In the other bedrooms, I hear nothing, yet I can still feel my two children at rest, without worry or fear. The dimmed streetlight from our street flickers through a window near my bed, penetrating through the blackness of another night in Suburbia. I follow the flicker across a mirror and to my dresser, where it settles on a photo of my dad and me when we went to Ireland for the Ryder Cup. I am wearing a black knit sweater, holding a pint of Smithwick’s, my arm around my dad, our smiles identical. We had asked the bartender to take the photo, and he kindly obliged. That was four years ago, a special trip I had arranged for my dad’s 60th birthday.
I focus on the light and on the photo for minutes, the clock still ticking as I stay in bed. I recall the trip so vividly. The photo transports me back to that Irish weekend: golf during the day, pubs at night, greasy fish and chips as dawn approached. The last time I was awake at this hour I was in Dublin, hanging with my dad, laughing with my friends, and thinking (no, knowing) that I had made it. All would be well, Franky.
But today, here I am—41 years old, the dad, the husband, the provider, the protector—awake and exhausted. I want to sleep. I want to shut my eyes again tightly, erase my thoughts, and forget. Yet, as much as I desire sleep, I can’t. I mean, I want to just force myself to sleep, but my body resists. My mind races from one blip to another, and the nightly rumination begins. Again. I am so familiar with it now that even as I fight to stop it, it consumes and conquers me. Another night where I lose the struggle, even though I tell myself that I can control it. Yet it controls me. Down goes Franky. Down goes Franky. I am not getting up or out of this bed because I never see it coming. Another sucker punch right in the face.
And as I lay awake, the questions begin to agitate my thoughts, and soon enough my mind surrenders to them. Where did it go wrong? Will I ever reverse it? Can I have myself back? Will I ever be the same again? Why did it happen to me? Who out there can help me? Can anyone help me? Will anyone help me? Do I need help? Over and over, the same thoughts corrupt and poison me.
Get up, Franky. Get up right now and push through yourself. I have the will, but when I try, I am chained to my blankets, which stick to me like magnets. I cannot get out of this bed. I will never be able to get out of this bed.
So I pray. Dear God, get me through this. Get me through this, right now, right here. Get me out of this bed and tell me that I will be protected. Come down from the sky, come into this house and push me out of this bed. I beg you. I cannot do this myself. You must come to me right now and lift me up, take me downstairs to the kitchen or anywhere else in this house, anywhere except for this bed. What have I done to you? I have done nothing, I have tried to live my life, raise my family, love my wife. I have done all this, even though you gave me a life so long ago where I had to learn quickly how to survive on my own. You uprooted me and you changed my life when I didn’t want it to change. You destroyed my family when I was too young to understand it all. And now I get this? You are not helping me. You despise me and want to see me fail. But no, I demand that you come down here and get me out of this bed. You caused this. Now help me solve it.
I wait. The light flickers, a dog barks outside as I stare at my clock. 4:45. The rest of the house sleeps, while I curse God and tell Him to go screw Himself.