Insomnia, perhaps?

by Gabriella Sonabend

It is 2am, it is Wednesday. Of this I am almost certain. During the day my body is sluggish; I am barely able to respond to conversation, I feel like I am bearing an enormous weight. I try to explain how I feel but I realise that my words sound contradictory and confusing, I am unable to articulate myself. To be honest I am not sure what I think anymore. Everything feels like an enormous effort; eating, speaking, moving from one space to another.

Somehow I manage to work, somehow I manage to leave the gallery and hop into a rickshaw. I even muster the energy to bargain over the price (I don’t know why I bother with this insignificant petty battle). I go to Assi and I meet Jeremy, we sit in a cafe, he has been here only two days and he already somewhat sees the insanity of this world, he could not stay here, I wonder how I have managed it. I go to the local laundry place, I have given the young woman who works there a bag of fabrics and asked her to stitch them into panels for me. They will be used as mounts for my drawings of women. I am beckoned into a small room, there is a power cut, and it is dark outside. In the room are two young women and a small girl. I am waiting for my fabrics to be delivered by a man, the women are thrilled to have me in their company and they offer me chai and ask me questions about myself and my work. I show them pictures of my drawings, which I have taken on my phone. They gasp with delight and ask me to draw them, I am weary but I do not want to disappoint them and so I take my sketch book out from my bag and sharpen my pencils; but it is too dark and I can barely see their faces. I promise that I will return over the next week to draw them. Will I have the energy to keep my promise?

Now it is night, it is cold and the sky is a heavy misty mauve. The sound of wedding bands has finally stopped for the night but the horns persist. I have been sewing and painting again. Sometimes when night falls and the city begins to sleep I feel my energy returning in short bursts – perhaps I must wait for the city to sleep before I am able to feel my own sense of space and time.

Today friends reached out to me from home and from other places which seem so incredibly far away. They sent words of encouragement and love. For brief moments I felt uncannily close to something, but for the best part of the day I feel estranged – from everything. I wish I could explain what exactly I am feeling but I can’t, I do not find the right words or actions.

Perhaps it is an overwhelming sense of empathy for the world around me, which I feel I am beginning to know, (know but never understand), a sadness that does not revolve around my own ‘self’ but is shared with every struggling being in this place. I am not sure. I search for productive ways of dealing with these feelings – is this insomnia?

It has been suggested that I return home. Despite everything, I feel that it is not yet my time to leave (maybe I am delusional). There is something here worth staying the extra few weeks for, I think, at least this is what I tell myself.