“I can see you’re a very happy girl!” Chimi exclaimed as she kneeled before me, rolling up the legs of my sweatpants and applying industrial strength paste to my skin. It took about forty minutes to get the barrage of wires and corresponding electrodes attached to my head, chest, ears, eyes, and nose at the Sleep & Alertness Clinic (750 Dundas Street West, Suite 2-221, Toronto, Ontario).

As my night nurse shimmied from my left side to my right, lacing up wires in denominations of red, yellow, and blue, the Mission Impossible theme inevitably ran through my head as I felt like a hostage situation gone wrong. Despite this being Chimi’s full-time gig, she was not the slightest bit graceful or gentle as she swung the cords fastened to my body around like a rhythmic gymnast doing a floor routine on too many steroids, repeatedly knocking them off her desk and onto the ground.

“Good morning, you dreamed!” Chimi said before she yanked the tube out of my nose and ripped the thick strips of masking tape away with reckless abandon, like a painful wax job.Having spent most of my third year at the University of Toronto unconscious in redundant lectures on the intersection of race, class, and gender, or hopped up on prescription stimulants, my psychiatrist, exasperated after four years of trying to help me out of my permanent, low-functioning state, thought it would be in our best interest that I undergo a two-day, two-night, all expenses paid trip to the Sleep & Alertness Clinic. My next-door neighbor on night one was an obese woman ranging anywhere from 45-60 years of age, with scraggly gray hair. Before she fell asleep at 9pm she kept moaning, “Oh my God, I’m so tired” from her bedroom, less than one foot away from where I was quarantined. She would later awake me from my slumber some hours later by running out of her room screaming, “I’m bleeding!’ though it was never confirmed or denied if this was in fact a true statement or the consequence of a night terror as she was quickly ushered out of the clinic at the ass crack of dawn.

Woman sleeping in a sleep clinic with wires hooked up to her
Sleep tight, don’t let the electrodes bite.
The only set of instructions I was given before I was put to bed at 10:30 pm like a colicky baby was not to get my wires wet under any circumstances or they would no longer be able to conduct the study. Thankfully, to prevent this sort of mishap, Chimi hastily scrunched up the 30+ mini wires and shoved them into my own personal pencil case that I got to wear strapped around my neck at all times. Chimi says it’s better to be happy than “seri,” her abbreviation of the word serious, though it is hard to remain happy at the Sleep & Alertness Clinic for a solid 48 hours.

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My parents had offered to drive me across town for my 8:30 pm check-in time at the clinic but a pay phone call an hour before our scheduled departure time, Mother alerted me that this would not be feasible. My parents were detained at the racetrack by a drunk driving accident, caused by my father.

Seemingly, Dad had too much to drink, per usual, and collided into a bus full of veterans out on a day trip from Sunnybrook Hospital before my parents even made it out of the parking lot. After blaming my mother for this misstep and allegedly mumbling, “If I had a noose right now, I would strangle you” in her direction, the nurse on duty emerged from the banged up bus and announced, “Do you realize you just hit a bus full of veterans?” To which my father shouted back, “I don’t fucking care about that! I have to drive my daughter to a sleep study!”

After processing this information, direct quotes and all, whilst last-minute packing my toothbrush and back issues of Rolling Stone from 1998 for my getaway, I was stunned to see my parents with shit-eating grins plastered across their faces waiting for me by reception when I arrived at the clinic following my hour-long Sunday commute.

My father greeted me with “Hi, Sweets,” a term of endearment that I asked him to refrain from calling me at the age of nine. I responded with, “You disgust me.”

The only opportunity I had to “interact” with another patient was when a deaf man and his interpreter barged into my TV lounge.His eyes glazed over and I couldn’t tell if that was from his high blood-alcohol level or if I had actually hurt him. In my lifetime, my father has only cried in front of me once: when he found out that Michael Hutchence of INXS had been found dead in a hotel room in 1997. I remember eating my cereal in the kitchen that morning while my father, completely choked up, attempted to read the news from The Toronto Sun, the local tabloid-style paper that only requires a fourth grade education to understand. From that point on, any time “Never Tear Us Apart” would play on the radio, my father would announce it was “the greatest song ever written” and consequently, I want it to set the backdrop for the traditional father/daughter dance at my future wedding, if he’s still alive or fortunate enough to even be invited to this enchanted event.

Father graciously handed me a crisp $20 bill out of his pre-accident winnings from the Queen’s Plate and announced it was “Tim Hortons money” for the coffee I wouldn’t be allowed to drink for two days. Thankfully, I wasn’t allotted enough time to be upset over the fact that my father had narrowly escaped jail time for the third time in his life for driving under the influence because Chimi whisked me away to my new bedroom and attached something to my thumb, my biggest finger, before forcing me to lie down.

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She ran into the control center and through the PA system instructed me to blink my eyes, grind my teeth, snore, kick my legs, and “move my belly.” My belly-moving abilities were not up to her standards so she demanded, “BIGGER! FASTER!” through the crackly speakers. I laughed so hard at this request that I shook with laughter and began tearing. My tears soaked through the pieces of tape underneath my eyes, holding a set of electrodes in place.

I was awoken the following day to “Good morning, you dreamed!” in Chimi’s cheeriest 8-year-old girl voice before she yanked the tube out of my nose and ripped the thick strips of masking tape away with reckless abandon, like a painful wax job. At that point we realized I was either allergic to tape, paste, copious amounts of rubbing alcohol, or a combo platter of all three, so my dressings had to be modified to not irritate the red, blotchy patches of skin that remained until my stint at the clinic was over.

It was outlined on the set of preparatory instructions for life at the Sleep & Alertness Clinic that you are encouraged to walk around outside and interact with the other patients. The first part is a lie; I was denied access to the outside world during the entirety of my stay. And the only opportunity I had to “interact” with another patient was when a deaf man and his interpreter barged into my TV lounge during the last leg of the all-day Intervention marathon on A&E I had been diligently watching all day. The deaf guy and his interpreter sat on either side of me on the couch and proceeded to smack their gums as they mouthed words to each other in an over-exaggerated fashion, accompanied by what resembled instinctual ape-like beating of their chests, which I know are actually excerpts from the American Sign Language. The minute I left the room to be suited up for round two of torture in my hyperbolic sleeping chamber, the deafie or his helper changed the channel to Treehouse, the only type of programming the hearing impaired can understand without closed captions, apparently.

Six weeks later I was summoned back to the clinic in order to receive my results. I learned that I wake up approximately 11 times per hour, whatever that actually means. To rectify this issue I have been prescribed the same brand of sleeping pills that my mother is too afraid to self-administer on the off chance she overdoses and never wakes up. In the event that she was to never again regain consciousness, her final request is that I cremate her myself and scatter her ashes in our backyard.

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