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Mack Williams column: Unexpected nap

On one of my first weekends home from Appalachian in the Autumn of 1969, I was feeling tired by Saturday afternoon. On late Friday afternoon, I had ridden Trailways to Salisbury (my car was at home) and dated my girlfriend Friday evening.

Neither riding a bus nor dating is conducive to sleep; so when I lay down that Saturday afternoon to rest, a load of unexpected “sleep deficit bricks” suddenly landed on me (though gently).

In waking, I thought only a few minutes had passed (but was to soon learn differently).

When I opened my eyes, everyday objects familiar to me my whole life seemed surrounded by an unusual aura; and this was long before getting my contacts (sleeping with contacts in sometimes makes everything look “foggy” afterwards).

Perhaps it was those unexpectedly advanced angles of shadows and sunlight which confused me, for they had progressed farther along than where my just-awakened judgment expected them to be. To me, it seemed as if I had only been asleep for a few seconds (seemingly so for Rip Van Winkle too, but my case was much less “extreme”).

Looking out my bedroom window, the old familiar great oak in our “driveway-island” looked just a little different.

The Old Concord Road, W.A. Cline’s house across it, as well as Paul Ritchie’s adjacent house (seen through autumn-thinned trees) had their “rock solid” familiarity lessened a bit too.

These illuminating rays of “unfamiliarity” seemed to enter my window to light up the everyday objects of my bedroom: bed, dresser, curtains, etc.; all reflecting just the minutest glow of what could be characterized as: “unrecognizability.”

That “different” sort of glow also seemed to impart a certain “Van Gogh-esque” choppiness to the appearance of everything around me (seeming a little bit like a “hangover,” except I had not touched a drop).

I said to myself: “From this unusual ‘vibrance,’ everything will soon morph back to comfortable ‘static,’ when the motion of the earth and the ‘perceived’ motion of the sun both catch up with me.”

But quickly upon the heels of this thought, I realized it was I who would have to master the “catching up,” and master it “mentally;” for when I looked at my watch, I discovered that instead of seconds or minutes, about two hours had passed me by.

My nap seemed to have performed the same service as that of a long-distance jet flight, with my problem being “consciousness lag.”

Since that late-fall day of 1969, I have had many expected and unexpected cat naps. Perhaps, if a nap is planned, as in the case of a siesta, no “voodoo” is left in its wake. But just the same, that almost half-century-ago “dozing off” seems “different” than the rest, planned or unplanned.

Inspired by that particular surprise sleep, I still have an unanswered, perhaps unanswerable question:

If an unexpected, two-hour nap deals such havoc (though subtle) to my familiarity with the world around me, what happens to that familiarity in death?

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