Last night, once again and as usual, I was held in the icy grip of my long-time nemesis, Dame Insomnia. I went to my study, a small room off the kitchen that contains my leather arm chair, ample light, and three and a half walls of floor to ceiling bookshelves stuffed to the mixed-metaphored gills with books.
It was quiet in the city and quiet in the apartment. My wife, in bed, was silently asleep (she sleeps the moment her head hits the eider) and Whiskey, who peeps when she sleeps was barely stirring. Even the traffic, 22 stories below, had seemed to take the night off and was hardly existent.
I set down to work, turning on the lamp over my chair and firing up my souped-up Mac. I am working on a number of longer writing projects—beyond Ad Aged—and I hoped to use these non-slumbered hours to some effect.
It was then I heard a slight chirping.
Was it a host of crickets emanating from Carl Schurz Park, two blocks away? No, it was not. The sound was coming from the top-most shelf of the shelves near the doorway, in a section that ran from Arendt to Chomsky.
I pulled over a small step stool and pulled down “Origins of Totalitarianism.” No cricket. “Between Past and Future.” “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” “On Revolution.” “The Jew as Pariah.” “Love and Saint Augustine.” No cricket.
I skipped over Martin Buber.
The chirping was coming from Chomsky. “Imperial Ambitions.” No. “Hegemony of Survival.” No. “Manufacturing Consent.” “The Responsibility of Intellectuals.” No.
I could find the offending cricket nowhere. And yet, still he chirped.
Would he lead me to madness, like Poe’s Raven?
Was he chirping, in effect, Nevermore?
I tried, and you can guess how this turned out, to ignore the small chirps. But the more I tried, the louder they seemed to get. They annoyed like a dripping faucet in the next sink. All I could hear—over every noise in this world—was chirp chirp chirp.
I removed more books, dusty Mittel-European tomes the likes of which no one reads anymore. Finally, in a corner filled with the dust of flakes of broken off pages, I found my assailant.
I cupped him gently in my hands and placed him in an old glass jelly jar. In the dark of a silent, except for chirping, night we walked together to the park.
Where I freed him to the freedom of urban grass and concrete.
Then back to my quiet.
Then back to sleep.