Sleep has never come easily. I remember staring up at the ceiling even when I was very young, watching the shadows of the horizontal blinds move as cars passed by our house, blue and gray walls turning orange and black for a few brief seconds. My bed was tucked beside the wall and away from the path of light and shadow, but I still liked holding my hands up into it, to see the shape they could make as they retreated across the room.
There was one night that I remember distinctly laying in bed, thinking about something I had learned that day, that there were people that spoke languages that weren’t like mine. I was confused, and convinced that regardless, they must still think in English. How could people think differently from me? The concept was abstract, speculative, too far away from my experience. I worked around it. Perhaps, if I learned a new word, I could use that in my thought process. What if that new word happened to be in another language, and I just didn’t realize that? Would I be thinking in words that weren’t my own? Or maybe, just maybe thoughts weren’t words at all. Maybe the images in your head had their own language, a mind-language, that you interpreted as it came to you. That made me feel better, as if I had solved something.
I was five years old. Too young to give voice to the things in my head, aware enough to cry when I heard my parents screaming at each other through the thin walls of our little house, naïve enough to think that making stop signs stopped more than just traffic.
(One of the last writing classes I took in college was on literary non-fiction. It may have been one of the best things for my craft at the time, and I still indulge myself in it now and then.)