Gracie Stories part 12, Ray Charles is Brave

Ray Charles is Brave

I finally slept. A whole night so to speak.

I have never slept. Even as a kid, I had trouble sleeping. I always figured I was just one of those people who didn’t sleep much and I didn’t seem to need much. I did fine for many years on a few hours of sleep and I didn’t think much about it. I acquired a load of degrees, was very diligent in my work and studies, never fell asleep sitting up or driving, etc.

I was also of the school that wherever I stopped I dropped and went to sleep. I used to delight in sleeping in my boots.

I was living on one of the more charming deserts of my beloved country, as far away in geography and ethos as possible from my homeland. I was alone there for a long while and I acquired the habit of curling up under my precious sleeping bag with all my clothes on, even my boots. I never slept as well in my what I call my memory as I slept under that soft old-school sleeping bag with my clothes and boots on. I don’t believe that sleeping bag has ever slept outside not once.

There was something machismo about it for sure and also something, well, dissolute. But not entirely dissolute; I also preferred it. I got up, brushed my teeth, splashed some water on my face and I was out the door. I wasn’t dressing in Milanese suits at the time but I wasn’t a slob either. I thought it was great. I lived like this for what seemed like a long time.

Nowadays when I am serious about sleep or when my sacred partner is out of town I fish out that same sleeping bag and I crawl under it with all the finery intact underneath, boots included.

I feel now the absence of sleep. I went to one of the clinics where they hooked me up — what?! I have a problem sleeping you expect me to sleep with probes on my head — in your bed? It was an absurd exercise for someone who can’t sleep; so they watched me not sleep. The sleep test had an inherent flaw: it was based on observing me sleeping under torture. I snuck some heroin so I could at least catch a few hours [note: I call all sleep aids heroin].

I did get something out of the sleep studies and I am sleeping better than I have probably ever slept in my life. Except these days. I am back to sleeping in my boots wherever I light.

I am listening for Gracie the dog in her cage and my sacred partner on her throne/bed [she has an egg crate foam platform on her side of the bed that lifts her up like a ridge over myself in the valley below] and everyone is sleeping tenderly. I’m plugged in.

Gracie often needs to go out, etc. and when she does she circles her cage like she’s in prison in Turkey and I take her out.

Taking her out has developed into a new routine. She can’t quite negotiate steps; she is overcome by the gravity of descent and she has lost confidence in ascent. So she waits for me at the top of the stairs. I take a slight hold of her collar and guide her down. This works surprisingly well and she submits to it; you can teach an old dog new tricks. It feels like I am helping Ray Charles off the bandstand.

I feed her on the front Italianate porch, covered, and she makes the more gently sloped stairs down to the front forty with relative ease. She stays out there on her own, pretty much pacing the porch and looking out at the world though I know she doesn’t see. She doesn’t hear either. She has never gone anywhere but the front yard though there is no invisible Forbidden Planet business there.

When I bring her in I have to now carry her up the second floor stairs. She just won’t try the stairs anymore by herself. That’s the phase we are in, and as long as I am home we have it worked out.

I am home most of the time.

She used to love to sit on the front porch and watch the world. She never went anywhere but the vicinity but now that she doesn’t see nor does she hear I suppose it’s easy to get disoriented.

The other night late someone showed up at the door with her; he found her wandering around in the middle of the big busy street that is a long block down from my house. He looked familiar to me but I can’t identify him. Is this your dog? He asked. Yes. What’s her name? Ray Charles. Ray Charles was wandering around Hanley Avenue [her name and address is on a collar coin but she is also sporting a nice bandana there these days]. She must have gotten confused and followed someone else down the street.

Still I let her out on the porch and she hasn’t repeated her mistake, though I do check on her more often and always she is pacing the porch stopping to gaze out as she once did though I imagine she doesn’t see much.

Poor Ray Charles, I think. Then there’s the nobility of pushing through when one after another of what is known is taken away. Ray Charles continues on. She eats well, my fingers and hands are recovering, she paces and flops in her palace when she is tired, much like myself, when the day is done with me, with my boots on.