I wake up in the middle of a meeting but nobody seems bothered by the fact that I was asleep. My face feels raw and red from lying on the sleeve of my shirt and there's a little puddle of drool on the mirror-like finish of the boardroom table, reminders of the elephant in the room. I don't remember preparing for the meeting, don't remember anything specific about my morning, but when John from Marketing asks me a question the information flows right out of my mouth without a second's hesitation. Whatever was bothering me a second ago is forgotten as I explain the new direct mail program to the attentive crowd.
Helene is smiling at me as she leaves, and I know I should make my move but as I try to catch up I trip on my own shoelace and jerk bolt upright from a dead sleep. It's noon and I just got back from lunch, the greasy paper bag on my desk in front of me filled with a hamburger and fries I don't remember ordering. I can just dimly remember now that before the meeting I woke up in the middle of the night, glowing numbers on the clock telling me I should be asleep. It's all the time now. Before waking up in bed I was driving home, startled awake by a car horn from what seemed to be a dream of watching the Late show on the couch where I woke up from formatting some data in a spreadsheet.
Is this one long nested dream that's been unspooling for a week? It can't be real, the times don't line up right. If I count it as a new day every time it's day after being night this should be Friday, and instead everything says that it's Wednesday afternoon. Joe leans over the cubicle wall to ask me if I have any time off request forms and for a second I just stare at him because I'm trying to remember what I was thinking about. Nothing important, I guess. I dig around and find a spare form, I tell him to copy it and give one back to me but I know he'll forget. Something still feels off, something is right there on the tip of my brain but I can't remember it. I pull my lunch out of the bag and start eating.
I wake up on a train. It's all clear for now but I remember that I'll forget; I don't seem to have anything to write this down on. It's dark out and the train is nearly empty - an unfamiliar skyline twinkles in the distance, and I realize that there aren't any trains nearby. I pull out my cell phone and sure enough there's a recorder function on it. I dictate as much as I can remember, as many steps back as possible. When I'm done it's all getting fuzzy but I know that what really knocks my memory out is being distracted by something so as long as I focus on the problem at hand I should be fine. I go to listen to my recording and realize there are others. I hit play on file after file, and they all start the same way.
"I keep waking up in strange places without going to sleep first. It started on June first, 2005..."
"... October thirteenth, 2013..."
"... August twenty-second, 2008. My name is Herman Walker..."
"... my name is Derrick Smith..."
"... my name is Warren Huel..."
I look at the reflection of my face in the window, and realize I'm not even sure that it's mine. The door between cars slams open and a man walks down the isle. "Excuse me," he says, "Do you have the time?" I exit out of whatever I was looking at on my phone and tell him. "It's eleven-thirty." He thanks me and continues on his way. Something seems wrong, but I can't remember what. For a second I catch myself looking at the date on my phone - May 12th, 2001... of course! It's Megan's birthday tomorrow. That must be what I was thinking of. Satisfied, I settle back in the seat and try to catch some sleep.