Last night, like so many nights, I fell not into the arms of Morpheus, the god of dreams. Instead, I was gripped by the icy-cold hand of Dame Insomnia, who dragged me from my 800-counts and into the bright and blinding glare of two AM wakefulness.
In truth, most nights I sleep the sleep of Bruno Sammartino, wrestling my demons, resisting--successfully, thank god--being pinned by them to the Posturepedic. But I wake up, that is when I have actually slept, having gripped and groaned and grappled with the vicissitudes of everyday life, and as exhausted as I was when I lay down.
These nocturnal matches are nothing new for me. In fact, I have been harried by horrors since my youth when the after-taste of my mother's venom would pursue me like a mongoose after a snake, and scare me away from sleep and into a forbidding wakefulness.
I had hoped, as I always do, that the roar of Cape Cod's surf would lull me into slumber, but I heard instead in the waves the barking howl of ten-thousand dead sailors who met with death and lay now in Davy Jones' locker.
On March 4, 1927, a northwest gale hit the Montclair, bound from Nova Scotia, as she was blown over a sandbar known as the "graveyard." Two of the schooner's three masts were already broken as a gigantic wave hit the boat and ripped her apart. Eight men were thrown into the frigid seas. Just three came out.
One of this missing, Captain James McLeod, met me on the beach. It was 2:32 AM, just last Thursday.
"Thank you," he said over the roar of the waves, "for coming to see me." He stuck out his hand to shake.
"It wasn't really my choice," I said acidly. "You brought me here."
He stalled for a minute and drew on his unlit meerschaum. "I did that. But only because it is so quiet in the sea. And I wanted someone to talk to. You have a nice face."
I gave him my most ungracious New Yorker. "It's three o'clock in the morning. I'm standing on the beach in the cold talking to a ghost."
"Ach," he spat. "You think you're cold. I have been under those waves for 90 years. I can tell you about cold. It t'ain't easy being a ghost you know. We get no days off. We have no union. And we have to work for eternity."
He was fading now. Getting ready to return to the depths.
"Life's a bitch. And so's death," I supposed.
"You could say that," he said. The wind was blowing through him, vaporizing his image on the beach as if he were made of pixels, or dust.
"But why me," I asked. I was hoping for some sort of answer.
"Like I said," he said, "you have a nice face."
And with that, he was gone. And I left the beach and walked back into my cabin to try once again to sleep.