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Drew Shannon

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

My wife complained that I snore.

Ever forgiving in other aspects of our co-habitation, she decided to record me in the act.

She played it back while I was sleeping. She played it back in all its orchestral glory, thinking this might cure me.

But she says I broke into a two-part harmony.

She tried giving me left hooks and I woke up with bruises up my arm.

She said, “I thought you were dead. You stopped breathing.”

I heard, “You stopped breeding.”

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“I was doing it in my sleep!” I exclaimed.

In the spirit of inquiry, I asked her that if I slept in the guest room and she could not hear me, was I actually snoring?

She told me I wasn’t a tree and since the guest room was next to our bedroom that, yes, no walls would be thick enough.

It takes a certain amount of self-criticism to reach the conclusion that your wife might be right about: a) your snoring, and b) about the need to do something about your snoring. So, as the final submission of the snorer to the snoree, I agreed to go to a sleep clinic to be tested.

It was in the depths of a Toronto winter; the snow was deep on the ground and more was falling. I was told I could bring reading material. I brought along a stack of New Yorker magazines that had been piling up by my desk. (I dreaded going to the mail box in case another edition arrived to be added to the unread pile.)

The bedroom I was assigned to was like a room in the Bates Motel. The art on the wall was enough to give me nightmares – blackbirds with yellow eyes, although the caption read, “Moonlight over the Prairies.”

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The technician went to work on me. He placed suction caps with wires on my head and face. The wires were inserted into a box at my bedside that would transmit my brainwaves and my movements to the technician’s screen.

I felt like Frankenstein’s monster.

There were cameras on the walls. Shades of The Twilight Zone.

He told me to go to sleep now. He would be in the next room and if I needed anything, I just had to call out.

The idea of trying to fall asleep when you know someone is watching you – a stranger to boot – is a surefire trigger for insomnia.

It was 8 o’clock. Normally, I go to bed after 11.

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The bed was like a rock pile. It was a twin. At home, my wife and I and our wheaten terrier (Pinot the Wonder Dog) share a king.

The sheets on this bed had a thread count of 13. I know. I counted them.

I habitually sleep on my stomach in the shape of a swastika. Here, I was forced to sleep on my back, so I wouldn’t dislodge a wire and electrocute myself.

I lay there in the gloom like a frozen mummy for two hours. Eyes wide shut, wishing I was home.

Then I had to pee.

I screamed a pathetic, “Help!”

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The technician came in rubbing his eyes. He unplugged me from the machine. I had to go to the washroom with the wires dangling from my face. I was terrified I’d run into someone. Norman Bates, perhaps.

Through the doors along the corridor I could hear a cacophony of my fellow inmates, sleeping peacefully and snoring blissfully like buzz saws. Surely, I was not as bad as that.

Having made it to the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror. Reflected back at me was the Addams family’s Christmas tree.

I returned to my room to be rewired by the technician.

Eventually, miraculously, I fell into the shallowest of sleeps, waking up for the eighth time at 5 a.m., exhausted.

I unhooked myself from the machine, dressed and went into the control room. The technician was unaware of my presence.

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He was asleep. Snoring.

I helped myself to coffee, making enough noise to ensure he would become aware of me but keeping a safe distance so that I wouldn’t alarm him with all the hardware hanging from my face.

“Well,” I said. “How did it go?”

“You’ll get the report from the doctor,” he replied.

A week later I was summoned to the doctor who told me that I had sleep apnea and I needed a CPAP machine.

I asked if I could get a second opinion.

“You can always take the test again,” he said, “in case there was a false reading.”

Go through that again! I’d rather have a root canal.

Eleven hundred dollars later, I was the reluctant owner of a device that blows air up your nose through a hose attached to a face mask that makes you look like a Second World War fighter pilot.

There is also a water chamber that fits into this contraption. If it malfunctions, you drown.

The first night I felt as if I had a cat sleeping on my face.

My wife said I didn’t snore.

That was because I couldn’t sleep.

The next night I substituted vodka for the distilled water.

I slept, but I was drunk by midnight and fell out of bed, terrifying Pinot who howled and woke up the neighbourhood.

But slowly, slowly I’m getting used to fighting the Battle of Britain every night. And on Halloween, I’ll wear the mask when I answer the door.

Tony Aspler lives in St. Catharines, Ont.

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