Sometimes we mock sleep by pretending to be asleep. In this mood, Mr Sleep himself is occasionally deceived and he comes visiting uninvited. But sleep has a mind of his own. He has a personality too. He is stubborn, yet forgiving.
When he visits Presidents or Prime Ministers, sometimes annoyingly at their most busy periods, they betray their powerlessness in sending him out despite their bulldog-faced security personnel. When he urgently needs their attention, they cannot beg him to give them some time. As he enters through their eyes and pulls the lids shut, no security man can get in to interfere.
Even when we desire to be alone; to brood over our circumstances, fortunes and misfortunes, or when the environment’s rhythm is distorting our already agitated frame of mind, the gentleman named 'Sleep' who although never informs us of his coming, yet ironically enters with impunity into our presence. Nevertheless, we still acknowledge his quiet presence and good disposition. Like a child whose mother has just returned home, adults unbelievably sulk for want of sleep. They can even fight to have him like ice cream.
People wishing to host Mr Sleep like an August visitor, go the extra mile to prepare. Although not all those who love to sleep are lazy bones, Mr Sleep himself must be lazy enough to indulge endless people in his bidding. His hosts' reason that he loves clean bed covers, hence new ones are spread. To look fresh in his presence, they have their warm bath late. For him to meet them in a merry mood; some people celebrate his coming with drinking or sleeping tablets to dull their senses. Others just close their eyes so that they would herald the surprise of his unannounced entrance. That is ‘sleeping’ to await the arrival of Sleep. Some imaginative people would play music which they like and believe he would also like it. The tune could draw him closer quicker― who knows!
To sleep, people assume postures that they think Mr Sleep would find amenable; like a woman trying to seduce a man, they lie down flat, coil up or stretch out. Some even thin out their clothing. Yet some prefer to be completely naked for the ultimate massage their bodies anticipate. When 'time' had gained on the sleeping participants, like madmen who have conquered shyness with renewed vigour, their postures change to scandalous grotesque shapes in the semblance of a new human species practising the folds of an appropriate embryo.
In his duties as our 'body’s maintenance' man, his first professional consideration without our permission is to cut down the amount of information that our mind is receiving from our ears, eyes and other senses by removing the linking plug to our brain. He slows down our heartbeat, pulse rate, normalizes our blood pressure, loosens our joints to enable our blood to cleanse itself, and in the process, makes us as good as new once again. He massages our bodies, straightens entangled nerves, pacifies our headaches and pleads compassion to our body pains no matter how serious. He comforts us and enables us to drink from the flow and pill of time which heals our many wounds.
Mr Sleep, the smooth-tongue diplomat, has the capacity to reduce us to our elements. Effortlessly you find the high and mighty, even the proud asleep, yet with mouth wide open; dripping unsavoury saliva. The lovers of quiet otherwise make abominable snoring noises and sometimes, involuntary flatulence loud enough to drive even a stealthy thief mad. In Mr Sleep’s presence, we seem to trust our safety. Even soldiers cannot forever train or hold their guns or merry-makers their wine glasses. He closes our eyes and in oblivion, we bother less of the approaching enemy. It’s a wonder how he makes us care less for all we care for in life.
As if by magic, even the wildest of creatures quietens to the pleasure of Mr Sleep’s presence when he visits. Not for his stories and neither for his chores, but for his mere reverence.
As much as Mr Sleep is a clown, he stupefies some people. Those sitting on a chair that unfortunately falls into his temptation are seen with their heads flung artlessly towards their back as if the head had been their body’s forsaken burden. Other times, their heads hang sideways over their shoulders like a forced attachment. Once, a duty conscious nurse at the operating theatre in a hospital was occasionally nodding and dropping the contents of her tray as like a paralyzed monument. Sleep plays games with Roland and makes him urinate on the bed before morning to humble him. What a surrender!
In a good mood ― Mr Sleep tells us stories, fantastic tales, great jokes. He is also a great artist, better than the most gifted surrealistic artist. He makes us be absolved in his fantasies and we feel his great gift in creating make-believe scenes in our minds. With him, we could prematurely get to heaven, if not, we journey with him to pick a slice from a bank’s vault when we are very broke. Such money we can spend only on one condition; in his presence in our dream.
Sometimes, he inspires us with sights of strange contraptions which we crave to manifest in reality. He makes us listen to samples of music or speeches put together for us to call inspiration when he is gone… What a gesture!
In a bad mood, he can frighten us out of our skin. Arrange with dogs to pursue us. In mortal fear, we scream alive to the surprise of civilized neighbours in the real world who might think we had seen a ghost.
Mr Sleep doesn’t discriminate when he visits masters or their servants as well as their animals. He is not ashamed to associate with us despite our shame of contagious disease or in our place of incarceration. He is the ambassador extraordinaire.
Mr Sleep, the gentleman never overstays his welcome and strives to remain honourable. He had never been found wanting in this regard. But for no noticeable offence, Roger was once at war with him. He never wished a visit from him because he had an examination the next morning. To kill sleep, he had indulged his body with a high dose of coffee. The fire in his determination made his eyes blood red. When Mr Sleep came close to the neighbourhood, he too was afraid to try. Roger succeeded in his design for some days but when Mr Sleep finally came knocking, Roger was too weak to resist the involuntary closing of his own eyes. Can you believe that Mr Sleep thereafter punished him by staying beyond the regular 7 solitary hours we all are used to? The neighbours had to phone for the ambulance to end the 2 days unusual long friendship between the once hating acquaintances.
Like a surreptitious adulterer, Sleep usually scurries away at the approach of a certain level of noise. He is no coward but for his safety, the speed with which he escapes jolts us awake. After the noise with its attendant echoes must have settled, if we try to reassure him of his safety to come back by closing our eyes, often times, he had had enough. Even if he did not come quickly, he is not usually angry; he would come later even if we blush.
A man whose disposition enables him to play euphemism even with the sad prostrate state of the dead is surely a diplomat. Mr Sleep is one. Even when we are dying, he makes us look as if we are asleep thus deceiving our dependants. And when we eventually die, Mr Sleep leads us through the dark alley because even at death we dread to be alone. He soothes us and we feel no pain or fear even without complete limbs to go on to the land of the unknown. At least with our eyes closed.
But immediately after Macbeth killed Duncan, he thought he heard a voice which cried, ‘Sleep no more. Macbeth doth murdered sleep, the innocent sleep that is the nurse of life…’ ‘Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more’. That must have been a cry from the grieving relations of Mr Sleep. The wages of murdering sleep is to sleep no more. If like a shadow, sleep too can die, then the murderer must prepare to die with his eyes open and to go without an escort to the land of the unknown.