Monday, February 13, 2012

LA Stories: Ambien Nights

Zolpidem Tartrate: Generic Ambien. Or at least that's the excuse I gave my boss after I texted her semi-nude photos of myself in a wolf hat at 2AM. Fortunately, she's a nature lover and has an awesome sense of humor, so aside from moderate humiliation, little damage was done that night.
But that was just one of so many Ambien Nights...
Ambien is a hell of a drug- it's a sleep aid, and I've been prescribed it several times throughout my storied career as an Insomniac.

My first time using it, I lay in bed next to Jay and proceeded to wave my arms in front of his face.
"Jay," he asks me in a cautios tone. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to keep all the buffalo off you," I answer.

Later, living in the heart of Hollywood, both my internal monsters and the ones outside our windows got me rattled- Life in LA had me pretty spooked, and I was again prescribed Ambien to help me sleep. Things often got scary around our building... Our upstairs neighbor tried to throw his wife out the window. The corner of our street was affectionately reffered to as "The Rape Corner," and there were often desperate, hungry people lurking in the shadows. I was perpetually nervous, and one night, when a violent fight broke out in our courtyard, I was terrified. I shook Jay awake as two men threatened to kill each other outside our ground-story window.
"Just let it go, it's fine," Jay said, rolling over to go back to sleep.
"I'M GONNA FUCKING KILL YOU!" screamed the Guy Outside.
"COME FIND ME MOTHER FUCKER!" screamed the Other Guy Outside.
"Jayyyy," I said.
"I'LL FUCKING GO ROOM-TO-ROOM AND KILL EVERYONE IN YOUR FUCKING BUILDING" yelled Guy Outside as he tried to kick in our gate. The gate is only a few feet from our window.
"FUCK YOU. COME GET ME" replied Other Guy Outside.
"Jay," I say, "We're in 1B. If he goes room-to-room, we're like SECOND."
"Fine," Jay said. "Call the cops."

When Jay left me alone over Christmas to travel home to Florida and visit his family, I pointed out that I didn't want to be in the apartment by myself at night. Between our fairly violent street and my penchant for Doing Stupid Stuff on Ambien, I felt it wasn't good for me to be alone. Jay agreed, and we decided that my friend Paul, another stiltwalker from Horror Nights, and now a Grinch working Grinchmas with me, would crash on our couch during Jay's absense.

It may seem odd that Jay didn't mind/care that another guy was sleeping so close to his highly-medicated wife over the 10 days surrounding Christmas, but Jay had long since stopped giving a shit about me. Hence him leaving me alone over the holidays. ...I should've let the buffalo get him.

At any rate, Paul was a wonderful friend and did not attempt to seduce me as I slept. In fact, he was pretty sound asleep himself when the noises from a party across the courtyard kept waking me up. I could see the lights twinkling through their open windows as they drank and danced and shouted over one another- it was a loud party. And it was 4:30AM.

I really wanted to just get some rest- Paul and I both had 7AM calls that morning, and a full day of prosthetic makeup, stilts and Holiday Cheer is a tall order on 3 hours of sleep. I decided to go politely ask them to shut their goddamn windows. Since I had a substantial swath of bright blue hair at the time, I figured I'd put a hat on to cover my obvious indentifier- I wasn't sure how my request was going to go over, and I didn't want to be "that blue haired bitch" for the rest of my tenure in the building. I pulled a cap out of the closet, and shambled past Paul as he snoozed in the living room.

I made it out the door, down the hall, across the courtyard, down the other hall, and knocked on the door. Several times. Then, since I wasn't getting the attention I felt I deserved, I pounded on the door. No response. Finally, I summoned my courage and turned the knob, walking into a complete stranger's house, in my pajamas, at 4:30AM.

He met me in the hallway. He was about 6 feet tall, and bathed in absolute God Light. He was so ethereal. So beautiful- the holiest of Holy Angels stood before me in Apartment 1N. The Archangel Michael. Wings, robe, halo. The whole schmorgassboard.

"Hi," I stammered. "I tried to knock, but..."

"No, no, I'm sorry- were we being too loud?" the Angel asked.

"Well, I've just gotta be at work in 3 hours, and your windows are wide open-"

"Ohhh," he says, nodding his head. "Dude, I am SO sorry- here, lemme get you a beer- you wanna beer?"

"Nah, man, I'm cool."

"Well I'll shut those windows right away- we're winding up anyway- so sorry."

"No worries man- goodnight!"

We may or may not have hugged, the Angel and I.

I went back to 1B, let myself in, strode past Paul and got back into bed.
When the alarm clock sounded a few hours later, I was convinced it was a wacky dream- but no: there, at the foot of my bed, was my hat, ready to greet me.

I walked out into the living room and shook the hat at the boy asleep on my couch.

"Paul. You're fired."

But I gave him a second chance, it being Christmas and whatnot. After work that day, we came back to 1B and strung bells across the door, just in case. Paul was not about to let me down a second time. Sure enough, a few days later, another fight broke out in the courtyard. Motherfucker this, I'll kill you that. You know the script. I snapped awake and instinctively felt for my husband in the dark- he wasn't there. He was in Florida. I remembered now. I listened to see how bad things would get, and they rapidly got progressively worse. The 'Ceremonial Kicking Down Of The Gate' began, and I was freaked out.

Our bedroom is connected to our living room by a small narrow hallway- the exact center of our apartment. I threw open the bedroom door and headed towards Paul, but instead ran smack into him- he had been heading to find me.

The first words out of his mouth: "Are you OK?"
I suddenly found myself confused by the question... yes, I was. I was. I felt safe.
Paul started zipping up the jacket he'd been carrying, and put both his hands on my shoulders.
He looks me in the eyes. "What would you like me to do?"
"Do you want me to go break it up, would you like me to call the cops? What do you need?"
I was absolutely stunned. This was not the lasseiz-fare reaction I was used to.
"Um, I'll call the cops," I said. "Please don't go out there."
"OK. I'm not gonna leave you," Paul says, taking off his jacket and placing it around my shoulders.
It's at this point I realized I was shaking. I guess I do that when I'm scared- it's a new thing I'm trying.
We call 911, and sit side by side on the couch, listening as the fight breaks down and relocates.

By now the chemical haze in my brain wins out over the adrenaline rush of the panic from before. I lay my head on my friend's shoulder as the Ambien kicks back in. I tell Paul about all the pretty lights I can see floating around the room. I can't sleep... too much happening.

"Shhh shh- it's okay," he says, rubbing a flat palm up and down my back. It is soothing. I feel calmer.
I fall asleep that night on his lap, listening to him as he softly sings Christmas carols.

A few hours later, the alarm clock goes off. It's 7AM and Paul is still sitting straight up with me asnoozed on his lap. He has stayed in that position for four hours, so I could get some rest.

Ladies and Gentlemen: meet Paul.

Nothing else too crazy happened over those nights. No more fights, no more angels. No naked wolf hat pictures. But thanks to the modern medicinal miracle of Zolpidem Tartrate, I discovered what I TRULY need to sleep at night: Someone Who Cares.