Change for a Year

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Thoughts Running Through My Head as I Lie in Bed

I have to be up in five hours, and I can’t sleep. The girl in the apartment upstairs is laughing. And rearranging furniture.

It reminds me three elephants having a cocktail party. But the girl’s cute, and I like to vacuum at 2 a.m., so I won’t complain.

I wish I could sleep. I’ve been playing games with myself lately, trying to make myself dream proper dreams. You know, dreams that seem full of meaning and profundity and make you feel like an adult with real Freudian problems, dreams that I could talk to Dr. Melfi about.

Someone recently told me they had a dream I was sleeping on the couch, and they saw me, opened the door, pulled the hose inside and began spraying and laughing hysterically. Then they woke up.

Someone else told me they had a dream they had to build a shower for a giraffe, but try as they might, they kept running out of wood.

I’m sure there are deep philosophical meanings behind their dreams. I have amazing dreams, but I forget them. I wonder if some inner conscious or hidden force — or even God — is whispering the meaning to all of life’s mysteries in my ear every night, and I’m just too damn lazy to sleep with a pencil by my bed, so they all slip by without me even realizing it.

When I drink I’m the happiest man on earth, but when I fall asleep drunk I have nightmares. Sometimes I think I should drink more. Those were happy times, the drunk every night playing Circle of Death times, getting drunk and throwing your shoes in the river times, paper airplane tips out of $50 bills for the waitress who couldn’t even keep up times, the everything was happy and possible and just spectacular times.

Then I wonder at what point drinking turned from joy into sadness. And is it just because I’m older now, or is it that I’m no longer truly happy and possible and spectacular. And I think of a story I heard of a famous comedian who had everything going perfectly for him and then just panicked. He saw the path to the end of his life and that terrified him.

I wonder if that’s why I can’t wait to sell everything I own, hop on my motorcycle and just drive. And I wonder if all that ties together somehow, and if as I’m driving along, life simple and uncluttered and carefree, I’ll have that feeling again: happy and possible and spectacular.

The noise comes back, a low rumble that could be anything from a table being slid across linoleum to 100,000 foam balls falling across the roof simultaneously.

And I close my eyes and suddenly imagine it raining Jelly Beans, maybe a trickle at first and then it becomes a downpour. I imagine turning that into a children’s book, The Day it Rained Jelly Beans. And I see kids dancing in the streets and gutters overflowing with red and green and yellow and orange candies. And puddles form in the streets and cars splash through them causing a wave of Jelly Beans to cascade over the children.

But maybe it never stops, and the Jelly Beans just keep falling day after day. And maybe all we’re left is streets filled with the black Jelly Beans — because no one will ever eat them — and the world turns black and gray because all the happiness has been consumed.

Must the children learn a life of balance to restore the world in act 3?

Then I realize I basically just rewrote Henry Van Dyke’s If All the Skies but with Jelly Beans.

I toss onto my side and flip the pillow and close my eyes, but still I cannot sleep. And I think of an interview I saw on Charlie Rose — which is the strangest thing because I never even watch Charlie Rose — and he asked this woman, this author, if she was happy. And she said the simplest and most profound thing I think I’ve ever heard.

“Of course I’m happy. Happiness isn’t some thing you work towards. It comes from enjoying what you do, and I enjoy what I do.”

They talked about how most people aren’t doing the thing they love, and how that was sad, but that, of course, it would be impossible for everyone to do what they loved and society to function.

Then I think she’s right, but only halfway. And I think of Gatsby and of the green light and of the illusion of happiness, of the way we all try to recreate happiness and beat on against the current, ceaselessly beating against the past, trying to get a place we once were but never quite being able go back.

That’s a depressing way to look at happiness, like black Jelly Beans.

But I can’t sleep. So I write, and I wonder why it is that I choose to write. Is writing like those tasty Jelly Beans, my happiness? Will I eat up all those colorful ones and be left in the darkness?

I imagine laughter, or I hear it in the distance, and that rumble comes again, almost like a wave rolling up the sand. And I see a girl smiling — there’s nothing more magical in all the world — as warm water rolls in, foaming up around my toes.

And I drift off, waiting to see where my dreams will take me.


  1. Sometimes I wonder if happiness is the normal human condition? Maybe the continual quest for happiness is what keeps mankind moving. Maybe discontented is normal and our desire to get away from that and find happiness is what gets us out of bed in the morning.
    Many people are in jobs or relationships that make them unhappy. The alterative is to move on into an unknown situation, uncertainty. Will you be happier with a different person or in a new job? You cannot know untill you have broken your ties to the current job/person and moved on. But once you move on there is no moving back. The grass on the other side of the fence may not be so green once you get there.
    Certain of uncertainty, what do we do?

  2. So glad to see it’s not just me..and love the Dr. Melfi reference.

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