The Sleepless

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Today was a long day. The crew wanted to head out early, so I woke up at 0230 for the first watch. The radios gave us constant trouble, but I managed to keep contact with them until my relief at 0800. I’ve been running on less than four hours of sleep for the past eighteen clock rotations, but I did it to myself. My supervisor put me in charge of the schedule, and it felt wrong to force my co-worker to do it. After all, she has enough of her own problems right now.

To be honest, I don’t mind the late night jobs. I actually like the solitude and the quiet dark. The only part that bothers me is my increasing tolerance to the caffeine in coffee. Luckily, my boyfriend managed to get me an energy drink the night before. It kept me going until colors detail and straight through my morning chores.

Even though my job is simple, it’s draining. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that I’ll be in California by this summer. I’ve been craving a different skyline ever since I missed the turning leaves of autumn. It made me realize that I was more connected to the land than I ever knew.

I grew up in the Midwest, surrounded by cornfields and lonely highways. The earth was empty and flat, making it possible to trace the outline of St. Louis’ looming arch on clear days. Every spring, I watched our neighboring farmers till their fields, and every fall I saw the crops fade and wither into husks. The combine engines were like the signaling of a bell. They declared the end of the summer heat and the beginning of the winter frost.

I miss the seasons. When you live in a place where summer is eternal, time moves slower. Six months feel like six years. I’ve been told I’ll be transferred to northern California. I’ll have my cold weather back, along with a plague of fog. The thought of gray mornings keeps me going.

It seems a bit late for the higher ups to get to know me, but our leader seems to be putting forth some effort. I suppose I threw him off when we first met. After all, how do you handle a sailor that doesn’t find comfort in bar – and one with a broken back no less? He had his subordinates treat me like porcelain for weeks. Embarrassed by my injury, I kept my distance ever since.

Today, however, he started asking me about my book. He found it odd that someone with a degree meant for law enforcement and investigation would show such an interest in writing. I told him it was what I always wanted to do, ever since I was three. He had me explain my story to a visiting boatswain’s mate. I didn’t get a lot of positive feedback, but it wasn’t negative either. Maybe he was just being nice by keeping his mouth shut.

Or maybe I shouldn’t have tried to fit a 95.6k plot into two sentences.

Regardless, I’m still hopeful that I’ll hear back from this next agent. It’s only been a few days since I sent the query letter, but I feel nervous every time I check my email. After all, if I ever get picked up, it will be life-changing. Even if I earn scraps off my first novel, it will be proof that I can do this and that the stories I have to tell are worth reading.

I know it’s possible, but on days like today, I know it a little bit less. When I’ve gone several shifts without sound sleep, I start to feel numb. My world starts to become very small, and I forget that my words have ever had an effect on anyone. I even begin to lose a sense of completion for my first novel. Did I really do my best? Or did I leave the story incomplete, like I did my discarded journals.

I know right now it’s my physical state affecting my thinking process. It’s odd to think that I’ve created some of my best writing when this exhausted. Maybe my sleep deprived doubts make me try harder. Maybe being too tired to dream is a good thing.

Maybe it’s not.


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I'm an aspiring writer trapped in the body of a sailor. I've just finished my first co-written novel with my favorite talented and inspiring artist.

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