birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Tradeoff

Breastfeeding. Passport stamps. LSD. Giant Thanksgiving prep. New lovers’ erogenous zones. These are some of the reasons I’ve stayed up all night. The night of sleep you lose is a trade-off for what you end up with for staying awake.

The last time I was up most of the night was with my mom the night before her hip replacement surgery. She was nervous but playing it cool, working her anxiety out in the form of micro-organizing. She asked me to stash her credit cards and $600 in cash in an old baby wipes canister and hide it all the way in the back of her cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink. She wanted her many Chapsticks and hand creams at an arm’s reach. Leftovers plopped into freezer bags, labeled, and labels double checked. Plant watering schedule enumerated and printed out. Assorted teabags, high fiber crackers, and portions of prunes measured out in individual snack kits. Hospital packing list followed like ingredients in a recipe. Netflix tutorial. When I tried to address the underlying emotions, she brought it right back to logistics every time. She worked with the overhead lights on, even though she hates overhead lights.

When it was hard to keep my eyes open she dismissed me. I slept for three hours on my mom’s couch while she stayed up, continuing this task and that. “I figure I’ll be knocked out most of tomorrow anyway so why not show up tired?” she asked, rhetorically. I drove her to Cedars in the dark and sat with her until they called her patient number. The sun was just coming up. When I finally asked her directly in the waiting room if she felt nervous at all she just patted my hand and told me she’d be fine. I patted her hand back and gave it a squeeze. Her surgery went swimmingly, and so has our relationship since then. So, yeah, I guess score another gain from another night of sleep lost.

Overnighter in London

Saying Good-Bye to Knoxville