Insomnia in Medellin

Insomnia in Medellin

I am hovering between dreams and reality. My fitful nap came to an end when I sleep- walked out of my hostel bed and into the common area. I awoke to a heavy French accent asking me something that I– in my heavy drowsiness– could not decipher. I responded with a yawn and a bleary-eyed smile, the shuffled back to bed.  I had recently watched the beginning of Fight Club (and just the beginning… I can rarely finish a movie) where the narrator says “when you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep… and you’re never really awake.”

That quote was one of the few that my exhausted brain can identify with. I have barely slept in days… circumstantial insomnia. Hostels are not kind to those who value sleep, and I’ve spent the last few days wandering Medellin in a tired stupor. Out of default, Medellin triggers a fatigue-induced psychosis, because each day is a copy of the last. I’m too tired to change the default.

I’d spent the previous night at a hostel that seemed to attract alcoholics. Although it had been a Monday, the boisterous laughter from the other side of the wall startled me from my sleep and made me bang my forehead on the low-lying rafter above my top bunk. In the morning, a shattered beer bottle and rocket-size backpacks strewn across the floor had turned the dorm into an obstacle course.

The night before that I’d spent on an overnight bus with a wanton driver who, to evade sleep, tested how close he could tailgate other buses on the curvaceous road without a fender bender. Needless to say, nobody slept; especially any passenger within five rows of the lady who would shriek each time she vomited into a plastic bag.

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So, I moved to a quiet hostel in a quiet area of Medellin. Each dorm bed has curtains and a private reading light to give the false sense of solitude that so many hostel dwellers crave after long months of living with strangers in close quarters.  But the Englishman in the bunk below me is due for an emergency sinus surgery tomorrow. His cacophony of snores and whimpers was more of an abstract concerto than a lullaby. The poor guy is having a worse night than anyone.

Nightmares burden my short bouts of sleep. I wake up ravenously hungry but don’t have enough brain power to cook, so my trembling arms reach for the coffee pot, or I hobble to one of the boutique coffee shops that pepper El Poblado neighborhood. The caffeine coursing through my blood brings a brief moment of clarity during which I laugh hysterically at my own madness.

I don’t know what is real. My memories of the previous days slip away like a dream. In Fight Club, the narrator asks, “If you wake up in a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?” I won’t really sleep or really wake up, until I leave Medellin. But when I am pulled out of this circadian suicide spiral, I will certainly be a different person.

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