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Cafe Diabolique 

I haven't slept since 1967 and it shows. I see people who aren't there. Are you really there, Condoleeza, behind the counter, making paper airplanes? Peggy Guggenheim, please put your clothes back on, I can't concentrate. I see Elvis with the hair of Jimi Hendrix. This one is real: Elvis is there. I also see people inside people: inside the guy reading his newspaper at the window table I see two clowns holding a pot of noodles they are about to dump into a strainer. This is par for the course in this joint. I don't like to look too closely, especially in the morning: every person is filled to the brim with people they dragged from their dreams. It takes a lot of caffeine to make them vanish. Some people drag dream people with them for half the day before they wake enough to shake them loose. Dream people don't need to get paid: all they need is a sleeper to laze in. There are 10 times more dream people than staff in most offices!

That's not my problem. My problem is neon, bright marquees, electric appliances and megalomania. My problem is highways, all-night gas stations, Molly's bar and too many thoughts. I think that I'm the emperor of midnight and the Duke of Polenta. The philosopher Cioran once told me that he didn't sleep for 30 years until he had excreted the entirety of his bitumen-fizzy philosophy, a dark brew that makes adolescents delirious. He said that he finally quit smoking because he smoked twice as much as people who slept.

Other people who didn't sleep are Tamarlane, Jesus and Cleopatra. Tamarlane was busy conquesting, Jesus had the sins of the world to put in the order they first appeared, and Cleopatra was a sex addict. She roamed the palace calling for Tamarlane. I'm not in that class, but I suffer all the same. Somewhere someone is getting my sleep. The TV throbs with reports of America's sleep deficit, but I don't see it. People sleep less, but they do sleep, as you can tell by the number of rabbits behind their eyelids. And the sheep in their coffee.

I had a sleepy childhood and a somnolent adolescence. I woke up in the '60s, along with my generation, but most of them stayed up just long enough to decide that life is but a dream. Then they went back to sleep. Meanwhile, some pretty nervous cats started prowling at night around our cribs. I saw them and I rang some bells. Everybody just turned over in bed. I saw these predators smell the rosy morphiated flesh of my contemporaries. They couldn't wait to pounce. I knew that as soon as the sleepers stuck their scrawny necks through the holey mosquito netting the preds would grab them hard, pull them down in the bed, chomp on 'em, and wash them down with cheap Retsina. They even dressed up some of their less-scrawny felines and sent them to live among us, to see if we were really sleeping or just pretending. Everybody was really sleeping, except for me and the coyotes. You know the rest. They slept through a good time, through a robust economy, through arguments about genders, guilt and penises.

As long as I'm awake, everybody's OK.


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