Dylan called only minutes after receiving the text.
"OK, first of all my fishing stories aren't boring, and second of all; why are you awake at 12:45 a.m.?"
I sighed and tossed my ponytail back over my shoulder. "Insomnia," I groaned. "I haven't slept for shit in three nights. Why are you up?"
"We just got back from a call." he said, stifling a yawn.
"Ooh!" I squealed, sitting upright on the couch "Something exciting? A house fire? Family of orphans trapped under a bus? Hostage situation?"
"If you find water damage from a faulty smoke alarm to be exciting then yes. . .yes it was." Dylan replied. "Trust me, Jen; my job is a lot less 'Rescue 911' and a lot more 'Reno 911'. C'mon, try to get some sleep."
"Pfft! Sleep is for the weak." I snorted contemptuously, wrapping my Snuggi tightly around myself.*
*Yes, I own a Snuggi. . .OK, I own two. . .shut up.
"No," Dylan continued patiently "sleep is for normal, functioning human beings who would like to be able to get through the day without paralyzing hallucinations and homicidal thoughts."
"Yes, well," I countered, tapping absently at my laptop "I think we've established that I am neither normal, nor a functional adult. Let's face it, sleep is nothing more than lying motionless in week-old laundry for six to eight hours. That's a total waste of quality TV viewing and web-surfing time."
Dylan chuckled. "I can hear you clicking away over there. So, either you're actively transcribing this conversation for your blog or you're surfing the 'net for eCards about Jeremy Renner. Which is it?"
"Neither!" I cried indignantly.*
*And by 'neither' I of course mean 'both'.
"Actually," I continued, "I was looking at this email Holly forwarded to me the other day. It's like a goddamned Rubik's Cube: I can't figure it out but also can't seem to stop playing with it."
I listened to the sound of Dylan's locker slamming as he stored his coat and boots. "Well, it's evident that I'm not getting any sleep tonight either, so you might as well forward it to me."
I grinned happily and forwarded the email to Dylan's phone. This was a missive my sister Holly had forwarded to me at the Farmer's Market last weekend as we went trawling for fresh produce and scented candles. Apparently, it was an email that had been mysteriously sent to a male coworker of hers and I haven't seen such awkward translation since the interview portion of the Miss Universe pageant. I submit the mystery email to you in its entirety:
Good evening! I'm Aaliyah Sims and I'm searching for plait man to have free-hearted nexus for permanent time and maybe getting affianced. Well here is what I can to let you know about me: unsophisticated mistress.
You are probably curious what do I look? I¹m lofty blonde with smooth hair, medium chest rate, slab sided body type and svelte legs, something else that interesting you about me, you can ask me at the date. I going to choose nice and upright macho. If you are dreaming for free-hearted relations and you are romantic, compose me a message here, who knows?May be you are my pair. Best regards! Mary
Dylan was silent for a moment. "Wait. . .is her name Aaliyah or Mary?"
"I don't know," I shrugged, knocking my Snuggi to the floor. "Maybe she forgot her new 'American' name; this email has Ukrainian Mail Order Bride written aaaaaaalllll over it."
"Well, you have to admire her concerted effort." Dylan countered affably, "Although I find it shocking that a woman with a medium chest rate and slab-sided body has trouble finding a fella."
I laughed. "Well, it's not easy to find a plait man in this day and age. And if you want a free-hearted nexus with someone nice and upright macho then you really need to step up your game."
"That's true." Dylan intoned seriously, "Especially if it is your dream to become affianced. Seriously, do they NOT have Google Translate in the Eastern Bloc countries?"
I laughed. "This has Babelfish written all over it. That site spews out more garbage than a bulimic with giardia."
"And thanks to that visual I won't be eating this evening." Dylan drawled with disgust.*
*Oh, man up, Nancy Boy!
I stretched and retrieved my Snuggi from the floor. "Well, I'll let you get some sleep. I'm going to play some Mario Kart until there's something on TV besides infomercials and porn."
"Won't it wake up the boys?" Dylan asked.
"They're spending the night with Grandpa and Grandma tonight." I said, picking up the Wii remote. "That's why I can't sleep. . .I can never sleep when they're not here. It's like my whole dynamic is. . .off."
Dylan thought for a moment. "But you sleep fine when I'm there. And I'm never there at night when the boys are home."
"No," I agreed, "and it's going to stay that way. The short people don't need that whole level of weirdness."
"I agree," he replied "and you know I feel the same way. So, if you don't sleep when they aren't home, why can you when I'm there?"
"I don't know." I pondered for a moment, choosing my words. "I guess. . .I guess. . .it seems safer. Like I can let my guard down a little. I don't even sleep all that well when the boys ARE home to be honest. It's like. . .I'm it. I'm the only line of defense in case of an emergency. There's this little part of me; that Mother Lion thing that always keeps one eye open to defend her cubs and that lioness voice keeps whispering in my ear to stay alert, to always be on the lookout for danger."
"And having me there drowns out the voice?" Dylan queried with mild confusion.
I paused. "Well. . .yeah. . .it does. I feel like someone else has my back. Like, in case there's a fire, or a break-in, or my drunk neighbor starts singing Adele outside of my window at 3:00 a.m. there's someone there to defend us."
He chuckled softly. "So, basically, I'm just your human shield?"
"Pretty much." I agreed. "C'mon, someone's gotta lean into the strike zone and take one for the team."
"Duly noted." Dylan replied sagely. "Well, the only thing I'm going to lean into is the shower. I smell like a steaming cafeteria tray full of ass."
"Lovely." I drawled. "Thanks for keeping me momentarily entertained. Now, if you'll excuse me I have a hot date with Luigi and Princess Peach." We said our goodbyes, and I hung up the phone, settling in for a glorious five hours of uninterrupted wakefulness, pausing just long enough to google the results of the sleep deprivation studies they did on American G.I.'s in the 1950's. Hallucinations, hysteria, and binge-eating. . .hmmm, pretty much a typical day at Casa de Jen, so I should be good to go. Huzzah.
An hour later I had abandoned Mario Kart for a rerun of "Roseanne" when I heard a light tapping at the door. Knowing full well that the only visitors dropping by at 2:00 a.m. would either be wielding a sawed-off shotgun or a copy of the Book of Mormon, I armed myself with the first available weapon at hand and peered through the side window. Seconds later I flung open the door to see Dylan standing on the porch in his sweatpants and a Portland Fire Department T-shirt; hair still damp from the shower. He grinned in amusement at the blunt-ended child safety scissors in my upraised hand.
"Were you planning to go all Miley Cyrus stalker on me?" he asked, while slowly peeling the scissors from my grasp.
"Whaa. . .? What are you DOING here?" I gaped incredulously. Dylan gently took my shoulders and turned me around, guiding me back into the apartment and then locking the door behind him. He kicked off his shoes as he led me down the hall, turning off the lights and TV on his way.
"Sleep." he said, softly but firmly as we reached the bedroom. "You need to sleep."
"B-but. . .but. . ." I stammered as he pulled down the blankets and carefully sat me down on the bed. "But aren't you on call tonight?"
"I was." he replied "And now I'm not. There's only about five hours left on my shift anyway and you need me here." I continued to stare at him in amazement as he lay me down and tucked the blankets around me snugly. Turning off the lamp, he lay down on top of the covers and wrapped one arm around me tightly, resting his head against mine.
"Are you going to get in trouble for this?" I worried, fiddling with his sleeve. I felt him smile against the back of my head.
"Nope." he replied "It's the Portland Fire and Rescue motto: 'Always Ready, Always There'. I got a report that a citizen needed a human shield and I would be shirking my duties if I didn't step up."
I smiled and let my eyes drift shut as I snuggled closer to him. "Thanks, but I warn you. . .I probably still won't be able to sleep. My insomnia is pretty badass."
"I'll keep my expectations low." he murmured, pressing a kiss into my hair. That's the last thing I remember before falling into the best sleep I'd had in days.