Sunday, February 20, 2011

When my girlfriend learned to teleport -or- The Five Liars

Don't trust your eyes
I had mild insomnia last night. For the first couple of hours, I kept falling into a light, fragile sleep, and then waking up what felt like minutes later. There were no dreams, no moments of REM, just blinking on and off like a digital clock after a power-outage.

I was lying next to my girlfriend, who was sleeping soundly, when I heard the bedroom door open. The kids are not allowed to open our bedroom door without knocking first, and I was going to mention it, but it wasn't one of the kids. It was an adult woman, and, for a moment, I didn't know how to react.

Of course, it was my girlfriend. She had gotten up during one of my brief moments of sleep, and then had come back while I was awake. Somehow, I wanted to argue about this. "I didn't hear you get up."

"You were sleeping, silly. It's three a.m."

I wanted to tell her that I had been semi-alert all night, that even in my sleeping moments I'd been half awake, that it was unlikely that she could have gotten out of bed and opened the door without me noticing. But how absurd would that be?  What point, exactly, would I have been arguing? That she had actually teleported out of the room? That I had lost time, like in a UFO abduction? That my real girlfriend had dissolved, and a pod person had walked in from the hallway? I was put off by how obvious it was that she had come in without leaving, even though it didn't make a bit (much less a byte) of sense.

I know that I slept through my girlfriend's exit from the room, and I think that almost everyone would have eventually come to the same conclusion, even after that brief moment of argumentativeness. But, what if it had happened a little differently? What if I had been awake when one of the children had walked in, but had kept my eyes closed? What if the kid had crawled into bed, and I had, in my sleep-deprived state, simply fallen asleep, and remained asleep when the kid remembered that she'd left her favorite blanket behind and made a stealthy exit?

When I wake up, and realize that during my obviously (to me) unbroken span of attention, something had come into my room, climbed into bed, and then vanished, I would suddenly have a creepy ghost story that I could tell everyone for the rest of my life.

It's easy, when you hear a report of something strange happening, from a person who seems to be perfectly honest, to dismiss them either as a liar or someone who makes stupid mistakes. But let's not be so hasty.

These are our senses, people. These are our only, few, connections to the world around us. Our thoughts and senses are literally the only experiences we have. We all trust our senses. We don't doubt that bacon is on sale for two dollars at the grocery store, or that the driveway is flooded, or that the grape juice stain from last week is still in the carpet, even though it's only our horribly unreliable senses telling us these things.

Are you sure that if you saw a ball of light meandering in the sky, or felt a hand grab your ankle in bed, or watched a stinky, seven-foot-tall sasquatch cross the hiking trail in front of you, that you wouldn't believe these things were exactly as they seemed? It's easy to be a skeptic when you're sitting at your laptop, after all.

But it's good to doubt yourself, regardless of your belief system, if you can manage it. If you start trusting everything you see, you may end up believing that, on one sleepless night, your girlfriend had to pee so bad that she teleported to the bathroom.

Thanks for reading.

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