My first instinct upon waking up is to find a scrap of paper and write a scrap of something down.
Some tatter of what remains to me from where I’ve been.
But I don’t. My contract forbids me, andIhaveto honor it. I can’t rightly say what it is that I fear might happen if I didn’t, but I don’t have the feeling that it would be something good.
I am not even allowed to look at it—it says so right on the second page, I’m told—so I don’t. I just let it be.
What I have to do in the morning, to get through this time when I’d like to be writing something down, building up, day by day, a star map of the nights that have made up the past few years, or a scale model, all toothpicks and rubber cement, that might help rough out some aspect of where I’ve been all this time, building up my fortune in ever-increasing increments, is to eat giant gushing mouthfuls of sweet, sweet cereal, filling my pencil-hand with a spoon and stirring at the gummy bowl until the tatters dissolve.
Marshmallows, lime and cherry flakes, chocolate chips, purple raspberry corn puffs. And whole milk, or even cream. Some coating for my teeth and tongue, a little warm fat to pack in the words that have crawled up from down in my throat.
I spread an Entertainment Weekly around me at the breakfast table, and wipe my milky fingers on the edges of the pages, down where the numbers are, as I see what the waking stars are up to.
I try to skip the TV section. When I happen to glance at it, I hope that there are no articles about me. When there are, I try not to read them, and when I do, I try to forget what I’ve read as soon as breakfast is over.
I hereby declare myself awake.
I often wonder if I should read more about my show just to see if any cancellations are imminent, any tectonic unrest between one season or network and the next, if I should prepare for the worst in that sense, start to compile a waking resume, but it’s stated very clearly in my contract that I am to give the show no waking thought of any kind; to think at all while I’m awake, would, indeed, constitute a certain breach, like telling the upcoming finale’s secret ending to a nosy interviewer, for no better reason than simply to have been the first to do it.
Some mornings, like now, I wake up with a gut full of turmoil, but if the feeling comes from inside the show, and what’s happening on it, or from outside, and what’s happening to it, I cannot tell.
I am, thus, in a way, the bearer of a secret, one that I cannot divulge to anyone, myself belonging firmly to that category. I don’t even know what season we’re in. I do live in some fear of the producers deciding to kill off my character, certainly, but there’s nothing I can do with this fear but let it come and go like one more mood, and pour some more cereal into whatever coconut-spackled milk remains.
I have nothing to do during the day. I am free to sit in my breakfast chair all the way until dinner.
And then, after dinner, I travel around the house in big loose circles, turning up the heat, wearing my pajamas or wrapped in a towel, until I’m tired enough to lie down, and then I lie there murmuring, thinking about my father, gathering up courage on the march toward sleep.
And then, as I imagine it, my work begins.
The cameramen come out of the closets, up from under the rugs, down from the attic and the chimney, in from the neighboring houses, and the director shouts action.
“I am a sleepwalking actor.”
This is all I’m allowed to tell the interviewers when they ask me, during the day, about what I do.
I am, it seems, a star. The star. Whether it’s a sitcom or a long, heavy drama, or pure pornography, executions down a long row of gagged captives or the daring rescue of innocents in freefall, I don’t know. But they do tell me that I’m a star, and, judging by the amount I get paid, either they mean it quite seriously, or else some very wealthy person is inexplicably intent on a very prolonged and diffuse joke.
My only waking job, as I sit here and think of it now, is to cultivate passivity. I have to let the actor take over, that is all. He kills his lines, he sweats charisma, he charms the dames right off their feet and knocks the fellas flat, if that’s the kind of show it is. And, if not, he does the other thing with equal finesse.
On the far side, where this all takes place, I am infinitely happy. Why shouldn’t I be?
In the mornings, nothing in the way of memory remains except a worn-out, composted mulch. A kind of smell, a sediment, a sort of distressed cereal softness in the ground from which weeds and other harmless things grow.
At worst, I have to blow my nose a few times.
And then I go to the bathroom and swallow a lot of water, when I feel something like a powder building up. Sometimes I feel that I would like to see a doctor, but the feeling passes.
After breakfast I imagine that I’m asleep, just soundly out of the picture, under a bag in the parking lot of a closed-down supermarket, or else enjoying the inky liquid bath of real dreams, color and sound exploding into one another in a sky made of overlapping fireworks, way up in the far back of the universe, where weirdness begets weirdness just to be weird. This is what I think dreams must be.
This is my repose, which, I hope you understand, the nights can never be.