I was shoving french fries in my face while driving tonight. Stress eating. They’re gone. I wiped my mouth with a napkin. Now I’m sitting down to do some Memoir Free Writing.
I found this photo of me from May 1968. I'm with my brother Kim (yeah, long story) who was dressed to the nines for his first communion. Little did we know that the priest who would dish out the body of Christ to my brother would later be found to have a wife and seven kids. I lived in that kind of town at that kind of time.
I look at photos from my childhood, and I’m always kind of stunned at my facial expressions. They hurt to look at. Like this one. I am wearing my usual look of deep introspection coupled with wariness. I’m like the prey the predator has spotted, and I’m deciding what to do because I’m smart and I know I’m in danger. I know what to expect, but I’m a little kid so I’m trying to figure out what to do.
I don't know who took the photo. It was probably my dad because I look like I'm expecting the whole world to come crashing down on me and like I'm ready to turn around and run as fast as I can. I'm both frozen and ready for flight. Deer in the headlights facing down the barrel of a rifle. I've spent a lot of my life looking like this. Dodging bullets. Taking blows.
The fact is that the whole world was crashing down in May 1968. Revolution was an everyday word. But I was five years and ten months old, so I wasn’t highly educated in riots and uprisings. The only revolution I was going through was the one inside my head. The one in which I knew my world wasn’t right, but I also accepted it because it was the only one I knew. Later I would find ways to revolt. I'm still finding ways. Inside and out.
Really what I was thinking when I sat down to write this blog entry was about those French fries I shoved in my face 30 minutes ago. French fries aren’t made of sugar, but I am.
I’ve had this thing since I was a little girl where I sleep walk in the middle of the night and eat sugar. When I was a kid, I’d go to the kitchen, grab the box of C&H brown sugar, shove spoonfuls into my mouth and feel the brown granules melt on my tongue. Then I’d make my way back to bed.
Except usually I didn’t make it. I’d always wake up at the landing on the top of the stairs. Disoriented and frozen in fear. The front door faced me down one flight of stairs. The kitchen door gaped to my left. The hall that led to my parent’s bedroom was socked in darkness on my left.
My dad’s snores echoed down the hall. I stood frozen. His snores would hitch like he was ready to wake. My stomach churned. I couldn’t move my feet. I licked sugar from my lips. I never remembered how I got to the landing. I smelled like brown sugar.
I usually had to pee but didn’t want to risk waking anyone up. I tiptoed back to my bedroom, the wooden floorboards squeaking under my feet.
I climbed in bed and pulled the covers up to my chin. Eventually I drifted back to sleep forgetting the pressure of my bladder.
I often dreamed of shoes because I was born with club feet. My feet were literally turned backwards and curled into balls. So I spent my first two years in braces, and then I had to wear hideous therapeutic shoes.
There was nothing I wanted more than black patent leather shoes with bows and a pair of white Go-Go boots. I didn’t get them, so I dreamed about them.
One night I dreamed that my whole closet was full of new shoes. My dad surprised me and bought me so many beautiful shoes. All shiny and new and girly. Like a candy shop made of shoes. I got out of bed and walked into my closet to touch them.
I got lost in the clothes dangling from hangers. I fought them off like monsters. I was screaming as I fought my way deeper and deeper into the closet.
My dad burst through the door of my bedroom and yelled: “Kimberley Marie! What the hell are you doing in your closet?”
He was six foot four inches tall and naked. His fury radiated off the folds of flesh hanging off his giant frame.
I opened my mouth. “Shoes.” I said. “Get your ass back in bed,” he said.
I went back to bed. Fell asleep to the sounds of cats fighting on the hillside.
In the morning I checked my closet. One pair of white saddle shoes. One pair of Keds sneakers. No patent leather.
I am 53 years old now. At times of great stress I still walk in my sleep and eat sugar. My daughter tells me that I just appear from the bedroom in a daze. I head for the kitchen, grab what sugar I can find, put it in my mouth, and walk back into my bedroom. I often have no recollection of this other than the sweet taste in my mouth when I wake up in the morning.
I have four cavities that need to be filled right now. I’m sure it’s from night sugar eating.
I read recently that this is a syndrome. It’s very complicated. It has something to do with the fact that I grew up in a home where I always felt like I was in danger so my body’s natural sleep chemicals stopped working right. I sleep walk and eat sugar in an attempt to produce a chemical effect that will allow me to sleep. My brain chemistry is fucked from years of trauma, and my body has forgotten how to sleep.
When I do sleep, I end up getting up and walking and finding sugar to eat. It’s unconscious. It’s biochemical. It’s weird. It’s just the reality of my sleep life.
Back in May 1968 when this photo was taken, my babysitter Peggy was a pure stoner hippie. She’d babysit and scarf all the sugar in the house. She didn’t have a syndrome. She had the munchies.
When my dad came home from work and found out all the cookies were gone, he beat our asses for eating them. Peggy was fucked up. She may have ended up at Altamont Pass. Her sister Sandy died of Elephantiasis. She was my age. She just disappeared one day and never came back until her face appeared in the local paper about the girl who died from a terrible and rare disease. Her body became monstrous. Like I said, things were weird.
Sometimes I dreamed Sandy was in my closet. When I stepped on her body, she felt like roasted marshmallows and stuck to my feet.
Truth of the matter is that the missing sugar wasn’t entirely Peggy’s fault. I probably ate a lot of cookies in the middle of the night, and I wasn’t even a stoner. Yet.
My daughter has grown up with a sleep walking sugar eating mom. She thinks it’s funny. She also just knows it’s me. It’s just how it is. At some point we have to accept the terms of my life and how they manifest in our everyday reality. Like the fact that my daughter has a somnambulist sugar eating mom.
I make promises to myself that I’ll do something like keep apple slices next to the bed. It doesn’t work.
The deeper the stress, the more I walk in my sleep and the more sugar I consume.
These days I buy local honey. I stick a big spoon in the jar and suck on gobs of mesquite honey. That’s my favorite because it’s thick and granular.
My teeth are paying the price. A lifetime of sugar eating sleep walking will catch up with you. I need $4,000 of dental work. No lie. The price of trauma.
It’s weird getting older when my childhood appears on my body. Like the cancer on my nose from my summers at lake Berryessa. Like I can never quite leave everything behind because it resurfaces on my actual body, as part of my physiology and biology. It’s not all about mental states. The emotional has permanent effects on the physical. That can be upsetting. Or I can just accept it and move on.
I could say I’m not going to keep any sugar in the house, but that makes me panic. Next thing I know, I’ll be driving in my sleep to WalMart at 3 a.m. Probably better to keep a stash around.
Maybe I need to start a revolution in my head. Maybe I need to move to Sugar Mountain.