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Amber Paulen

How Sonia Slept

As written today, the book, the rough draft, the continual process, The Body’s Long Madness:

When Sonia stopped talking she stopped suddenly. She rose to get ready for bed while I was left on the soft couch smoking in mechanical motions. I was trying to digest the great bulk of all that Sonia had just told me. Staying with Sonia was another adventure all in itself.

I took my turn in the bathroom when she finished. Over the couch she laid out her sheets and then her blankets, she got in between them and fell soon asleep. When I was finished, I tip-toed through what was so recently a living room alive with the woman’s full-bodied talk, up the small wooden stairs, to the loft, to Sonia’s bed. Sleeping at Sonia’s was awkward. I got her satin sheets and embroidered pillows, her queen-sized bed with the small table and low yellow lamp, while she lie curled on the couch. She was a mound down there, a mound of blankets and flesh.

I stayed awake for some time, enjoying the great luxury of plush blankets with my book or journal propped up on a downy pillow. This, I soon learned, was just enough time for Sonia to fall into deep sleep, out of whence, commenced her bear-like rumble. As Sonia smoked and as Sonia talked, Sonia snored. I was forced to believe, through that week, that everything Sonia did was done in intensity. Sonia snored earth shaking snores that I thought must have come rising straight out of her gut, snores that by-passed the normal passageways, had detoured the throat. For when Sonia rumbled her whole body shook. I didn’t have to be near to know it.

Sometimes, it was as if the snore caught itself on something, somewhere within her, for the clamorous breath paused and there was a silence unlike any silence I had then heard. It was a silence between life and death for it was silence without breath. I too held my breath, long ago having lost my concentration for writing or reading, hoping the mechanism that got stuck became loose again because otherwise I would have to go running into the piazza, screaming for help. But Sonia’s breath always re-booted and when it began again it came crashing through her body like a thunderous warrior come crashing through a spectacular crystal blue sky. It began with a breath to top all breathes: What magnitude! What a resounding roar! Again the snore came even and steady, rumbling and raucous; it became the apartment, how it echoed through it.

As I laid there, up above the rough in and out, sleep having slipped slightly further off into the distance, I wondered how it was that Sonia did not wake herself up. The sheer strength of that recommencing and definitive inhalation which got all the gears going again, must have shaken her body. Sometimes, later in the night, after I had pulled a pillow over my ears, it shook me and it shook me awake.

Sonia’s snoring wasn’t just about that deadly pause among rough amplifications, it was the whole thing: Sonia’s snoring scared me. That snoring caused me to question, each night after I had waited just a little to long to fall asleep, her intense daytime vitality. A life lived to such extremes became very evident in the rocky climaxes of sleep.

I was always amazed, when the following morning, Sonia was up and moving quickly. How was this woman the same bear from the night before? The similarities were incongruent and not pleasant, so I forgot about Sonia at night until she appeared.

I never asked her about the snoring, and sometimes I wonder if I should have. Who else was there to worry about Sonia but herself? There was Bernard, but Bernard came and went; Bernard was too busy preaching The Genome Project and how it predicted the second coming of Christ. There had to be someone who worried about Sonia, I reassured myself, I couldn’t have been the only one.

Bracciano Italy
September 2008


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