Can't Sleep / The Last Shoe Salesman
I cannot sleep. When I lay down and close my eyes, my eyes pop open like an uncooperative lid on a Tupperware. I feel a tightness in my chest and am acutely aware of my heartbeat. Am I dying? Is this dying? I reach for my phone and ask it “am I dying?” The response is not helpful. I ask my phone ‘what tightness in the chest and what being aware of your own heartbeat at bedtime means.’ It means a lot. This is not helpful, either.
I throw a mental dart at a mental dartboard and it hits “anxiety.” I have anxiety. My eye begins twitching like a bell ringing. Oh, this feels familiar. Eye twitching is anxiety or stress. Or a calcium deficiency. I get up and drink 4 ounces of milk just to be sure. There is no change, I can safely believe I have anxiety.
I decide to write something funny to work out my anxiety.
It is not going well.
Writing about not being able to sleep seems self-indulgent. I decide to write about a... shoe salesman. Sure, why not? The last shoe salesman in the world. Why is he the last shoe salesman in the world? Okay, he’s the last shoe salesman in the world because people do not need personal attention to buy their shoes. People no longer believe service is about interaction, they believe service is about convenience. People buy their shoes online. Maybe, this last shoe salesman in the world is buying his first pair of shoes online. “Who sells to the salesman” kind of thing.
Maybe, the shoe store has just closed its doors forever. Thick-necked men load boxes of unsold shoes into a truck on their way back to a warehouse. The shoe salesman looks down at his own shoes as the truck pulls away. He paced around the store all day hoping for one final sale, but all he did was wear a hole in his shoe. He decides to give in and go online like everybody else. He sits down at an old computer in the store room. He looks up at the framed one dollar bill above the desk and the faded picture of his father in front of the store on its opening day. This comedy bit is now very sad.
What if I write about the first shoe salesman? He’s a caveman. He’s a caveman who discovers putting animal skins on your feet allows you to run faster. I write an “Air Jurassic” joke. I realize that that joke is twenty years out of date. Also, factually inaccurate. I contemplate writing an essay about “truth in comedy.”
I give up and go back to bed.
I do not sleep for many more hours.