Beyond Sleep

Loam Disher Issue: Section:

I’m on the fifty-seventh floor in a room that has never been used in a hotel that wasn’t here yesterday in a city that is a construction zone in a country searching for an identity. I don’t sleep. Nor do the Malasian-Filipino-Nepali-Indian work force out side my window, 57 stories up. The work doesn’t stop. Crews of roofers, framers, plasterers go around the clock. They are all shipped in. Perhaps it’s comforting to be above their life on the ground where an accidental traffic incident is punishable by a public face slapping. Roles are defined here. Qatari rule. All else serve. I limp down the cold stone corridor to the massive kitchen. I could move my entire family here and still have room for more. Everything looks perfect and new but once touched is exposed as the cheap goods it is. It’s all a facade. Opening the washing machine the door nearly snaps off in my hand. I have plates, pans, silverware, stove, oven, microwave, thousands of cupboards, a dining room, a living room, a maid’s room and a jar of Nescafe. Back to my bedroom. 25 channels of middle eastern futbol. My Casablanca King size bed, initially inviting, now seems as lonely as the desert. I roll, stretch, embrace the multitude of pillows but it’s no use. It’s just me. My hopes and regrets, fantasies and frustrations. It will be morning soon, at least there’s that. I'll walk to the water that I can’t get in. There are no sidewalks. They haven’t been built yet. I ride the elevator in search of human contact but each service person I encounter turns away so as not to risk offending my 1st world sensibilities. Across the way there is a bar but it is filled with oil heirs and shopping mall owners, their faces unable to hide the shame of their enterprise.
As the days pass sleep becomes an afterthought. The shakes are replaced by a heavy calmness. I am changing. My skin turns leathery and my gums grow sore. The limp persists as there is no healing slumber. My heart rate has slowed and I can survive on a small amount of water and carrots alone. I know the day will soon be upon me, the leaving of this prefabricated metropolis.
I’ve ceased talking to myself and now make only long, deep sighs as a means of expression. This world has become too heavy. Avoiding mirrors my only confirmation of appearance is in my shadow and the shuffle of my feet. Tomorrow i’ll go.
At first the dunes burn my feet but before long they have calloused. The white sheet, all I’ve left of modern Qatar, protects me from the scorching rays.
There is no destination, only travel.
All sound is gone, all horizons endless, the sky a carpet of stars.
First to my knees, then to my back, I lay weightless, merging with the elements and for the first time I sleep. Or at least dream.
I awake stripped of judgement and the jaded malaise that was rotting me. Cleansed of the petty lusts that diverted my attention but twice as ravenous for the passions at my core. Capable of deep, peaceful slumber when given the opportunity yet unrestrained by the fear of fatigue.
I am new. Recreated. A hopeful traveller again.

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