There are things we learn about in childhood that remain forever mysterious. When I was very young and still slept on the same bed with my parents, sometimes I woke up at night and heard them talking. Times and times again, like the last summer I slept in their bedroom and sometimes waken up by their voices, it seems to me they always talk at night, at the most random moments, somehow I even feel like they don’t sleep. Yesterday, I finally had a breakthrough. I understood.
He was sleeping soundly, and I was reading. We left the video call on. I heard occasional engines roaming on the street, a rooster crowing now and then, people chatting on and off. I fell asleep for about 2 hours and woke up when dawn broke, finally his cell phone’s alarm went off, we said goodbye and ended the call. I’ve never watched anyone sleep before, simply because I enjoy sleeping too much to stay awake when others are sleeping.
It is like experiencing two realities happening at the same time. In my place, everything stood still. I knew time by the light outside my window. It got darker and darker, going from the bright early afternoon to complete darkness. In his place, everything constantly moved. I counted the flow of time by the noise echoing to his bed. The street got quieter, then became lively again with vehicles and people. I didn’t see anything there, but I heard everything. I could feel time moving slowly but steady. Here, I couldn’t hear anything in the uttermost silence surrounding me, the only sound was when I turned pages. To see light and to hear darkness, to feel day drifting to night and night approaching day, to experience time moving in two different directions through two different senses, is weird, strange, yet interesting. I could feel the Earth revolving around itself.
I could tell the stages of his sleep cycle based on his breathing. It was fast and kind of heavy at first, then got deeper and slower, until it got to a point I hardly heard anything. For a while, I found myself breathing the same rhythm with him, love dancing in my body from head to toes. For a moment, I saw in my mind the picture of a busy market, where everything is fresh and full of life, and almost like I could taste a summer breeze. I didn’t know why. Why a crowded market, why a cool caressing breeze, why I saw them in the rhythm of his breathing? That moment, I couldn’t describe anything better than I felt like home. Not close, not intimate, not peaceful, not loving, not happy. “Home” here doesn’t mean family, nor fatherland, neither Hanoi nor Vietnam. I felt like home, like something I’ve known for as long as I can remember, like it’s always been there, I just wasn’t aware of it. Finally I found it, and was grasped by a sudden recognition that it has always been there. A man who makes me feel like home.
I love how he murmured “I love you so much” in such a dreamlike manner I wasn’t sure if he was awake, when his eyes were still tightly close and fell asleep right away. I love how he composed “poem” in sleep, read a pair of sentences out loud and I couldn’t help laughing and teasing him for the entire of the day after. I love how he just wanted my presence there when he slept, with no need to talk or to share anything. It’s like during the night, he belongs to me, his complete being is mine, only mine.
And I love how he would say something random in between sleep and wakefulness, switching between consciousness and unconsciousness and I would answer him. The conversation carried on for a few minutes until he, or both of us, fell asleep again. Finally, I understand how my parents always seem to talk at nights to the amazement of a kid.