When I’m restless and can’t sleep, I get out of bed and make myself a grilled cheese sandwich. I wander into the kitchen and put a frying pan on the stove to heat up while I gather ingredients: butter, bread, cheese (yes, I prefer mayo to butter for a grilled cheese but no one has ever woken up in the middle of the night and thought mayo might be comforting). I use more than one slice of cheese because I take things like sandwiches in the middle of the night very seriously. I also mix up my cheese selection: cheddar/swiss/American, gruyere/jarlsberg/American, cheddar/gouda/American. There has to be one slice of American cheese right in the middle to give it that magical ooze when you cut the sandwich in half and pull apart the triangles. The cheese has to seem like it cannot bear to be apart from its cheese comrades.
I make this snack on one leg like a flamingo, one foot resting on that area where thigh and knee meet. I have a stable center of gravity which means I can rarely be knocked over but I’m constantly betrayed by my own clumsiness. I let the sandwich turn golden brown on one side before flipping it with a spatula, letting it become a miniature pocket of melty goodness on the inside. You’ve got to be patient. Soon it is ready and I put it on a plate, cutting it diagonally as soon as it’s done. I do not sit to eat it. Sitting would make this a meal and this is something much more restorative than a meal. I stand at the counter and pull apart the sandwich, catching dripping cheese with a swoop of my neck. I shift my weight on either foot as I eat it slowly; it is perfect. I drink exactly half of a glass of water before going to bed. If I don’t feel better about whatever was on my mind, at least a blend of carbs and dairy will lull me into what I think is restful sleep.
I tend to do this alone, not because I haven’t made a grilled cheese sandwich for someone else in the middle of the night but because it’s always been a time where I can just really be alone, armor off. I spent so much time in the past circling another person and never really letting them in. I’ve let people hold me, hug me, kiss me, make me laugh, have sex with me, talk to me and I wonder if I was ever entirely there. Lately I have the feeling of being present for the first time in a long time, as if I’m in on every inside joke that I didn’t even know existed until recently. I can think of people who have held me and put their hands on me, people who had no idea they were holding little more than a hologram of a person.
I got better at that eventually but I still struggled with being in my body, in my own self. I always wondered if you had to go through the motions of life over and over until you found that you really felt it. I think of how I used to play as a little girl, games of house, beauty parlor, cooking show, practicing the steps of daily life again and again until you find yourself doing the things you played at for real. I cherish the middle of the night where I make a sandwich just for me, late at night, knowing exactly how long to cook it, exactly how to cut it, exactly how I want it. I found home in places and people but I feel like I’ve finally found it in myself; alone, comfortable, secure, present in a way I never realized I could be, aware of the balls of your feet against the cold tile, wiping your mouth after a sip of water, making your way in the dark back to bed through muscle memory, resting against the cool part of your pillow, silvery moonlight and your fullness and the warm weight of your body against the mattress reminding you that you are and always will be home.