The other day I was having a bout of insomia. Well, I don't know if insomnia is the right word. I have a tendency when working a lot or writing a lot to try to flip my sleeping hours into nocturnal cycles or a biphasic cycle. I don't get tired until around 4am, but then that doesn't work for EST business hours or typical social life hours, so I sleep in if I can but probably won't and will go to bed way too early and then wake up at 4, or might nap in the early evening or otherwise set up bizarre sleep cycles/me struggling to reign in my sleep to something "normal" and where I have no idea when I should actually be tired.
So one night at around 2am I wanted to sleep to be able to fully rested and back on a good cycle, but I couldn't. As I fussed with windows (open or closed?) and fan (on or off?) I decided that since fall weather was arriving I should go to the laundromat and wash the blankets that had been stored since spring. I decided to go immediately. I loaded a few things into the car and took off for the 24-hour laundromat.
Turns out it's a good time to do laundry. No waiting for machines, you can have your pick. Two students were plowing their way through athletic wear, jeans and towels, and one rather amorous goth couple were doing a few shared dark loads. A man with a massive vacuum cleaner worked methodically from one dryer to another, sucking down link from vents and doors. We all worked independently, slow moving gears in our shared machine, until a visitor dropped in. A man told us a fantastic tale which managed to gather us in audience, involving his role as a hero in a neighbor's trauma, his swift rescue of her to the hospital, the surprise impoundment of her car by town police, the peril he faced in trying to get home to the next county without taxi fare. It was a good story, a page-turner, a compelling ride full of rich details and sympathetic characters. Each time one of us looked as though we might pull away from listening, he upped the ante. The narrator was questionable, but the story soared.
"I know I'm talking fast here," he said. "Forgive me. My kids are with a babysitter who will leave at 6am, 6:30 at the latest, and if I'm not there, I'll lose them."
He was talking fast, that part was true. I don't know what other parts were as well. His story did have urgency, a fiery urgency, to be sure. He needed some cash, any amount would help.
After he finally left with only enough for a cup of coffee, the last of our backs turned away from him, the massive vacuum and washing machines drowing out any possibility of a follow-up story. I wondered if the best stories are fueled by something akin to whatever need was actually fueling our 5 am visitor's Scheherazade play, and how to approximate that with only a keyboard.