… or is it?


by Joe Buonfiglio

“You know you have narcolepsy, right?” she says as casually as one might go over the potential movie options for viewing on TV as the smell of burnt popcorn from the microwave oven slowly fills the air.

“What? That’s absurd,” I utter as I would if someone had just told me a penis had grown out of my forehead unnoticed by me as I eat my split pea soup for lunch. “I don’t have narcolepsy. Why would you say such a—”

“Because you do. Everyone knows it but you.”

What. The. Fuck. Has she gone mad or have I? What the hell am I hearing here?

“Just stop it.”

“It’s true.”

“Stop! I am NOT a narcoleptic! Where do you get such insane ideas?”

“Uh, maybe from the fact that you’ll drop off to sleep in mid-task, hell, in midsentence.”

Okay, there is no way I have narcolepsy. I suffer from some crazy shit — depression, binge-consumption of food and drink, I can be a bit of a hoarder, insomnia and night terrors, some admitted run-ins with voices in my head, aviophobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, a touch of Attention-Deficit Disorder and God only knows how many other “disorders” I have yet to identify — but there is no way, no fucking way, I’m a narcoleptic.

The notion is absurd.

It’s stupid.

It’s out-n-out idio— It’s id—

You know, I do have these gaps in my memory from over the course of my life. I just assumed it was alcohol-poisoning level drunkenness or blacking out from anxiety attacks.


And then, there was that time in college when I woke up in the dark … in the wee hours of the morning … naked … on the road … in my pickup truck … driving 90 miles an hour with my— Holy fuck! I AM a narcoleptic! Quick! Google “the symptoms of narcolepsy.”

Okay, so, blah-blah-blah-blah, chatty-chatty-bullshit-bullshit. Here we go: “The signs and symptoms of narcolepsy.”

Extreme daytime sleepiness. “All people who have narcolepsy have extreme daytime sleepiness. This often is the most obvious symptom of the disorder.” Yup. But I’m a writer, a creature of the night. ALL my professional ilk muscle through a life of “extreme daytime sleepiness.” So what; all writers are narcoleptics?

Strong emotions that can lead to sleepiness. Anger, fear, laughter and excitement surge in me beyond “normal” intensities for sure, but doesn’t everyone feel drained after a volcanic outburst?

Cataplexy (muscle/joint weakness) while awake. “Muscle weakness that may also make your knees weak or cause you to drop things you’re holding. Some people lose all muscle control and fall.” My knees will often buckle right out from under me and down I go, but that’s from playing high school football, right? Right?!

Isn’t it?

Hallucinations. A cacophony of chastising voices fill my head while I’m in bed on many a night. It would seem to me that this malevolent chorus of prick bastards would fit this bill nicely.

“Sleep paralysis” and vivid dreams while falling asleep, waking up or dozing. I’ve suffered from horrific terror dreams most of my life, but now you’re saying it may involve a type of sleep paralysis, too? I can remember in college being on my back on the floor, my feet and hands in the air, unable to move. Could this have been—

Oh, come on!

And the terror dreams?

“Most people who have narcolepsy don’t sleep well at night.” Night terrors, insomnia, et cetera, et cetera. Do go on. “They may have trouble falling and staying asleep. Vivid, scary dreams may disturb sleep.”

Piss bucket!

“These dreams can feel very real. You may feel like you can see, hear, smell and taste things.”

Hoooooooooo-ly shit!

“People who have (narcolepsy-driven) daytime sleepiness often complain of:

  • Mental cloudiness or ‘fog’
  • Memory problems or problems focusing
  • Lack of energy or extreme exhaustion
  • Depression

Check, check, check and son of a bitch, CHECK!

“During automatic behavior, you’re not aware of your actions, so you don’t do them well. For example, if you’re writing before falling asleep, you may scribble rather than form words. If you’re driving, you may get lost or have an accident. Most people who have this symptom don’t remember what happened while it was going on.”

Again, I was naked … on the road … in my pickup truck … driving 90 miles per hour. “Uh, sorry officer and insurance-claims-adjuster guy, but I’m a narcoleptic.” I get the feeling not bringing that up at the DMV when I got my Florida driver’s license wouldn’t have gone over well on my court date.

“Microsleep” is a very brief sleep episode during which you continue to function (talk, put things away, etc.), and then awaken with no memory of the activities. In college, people pulling study all-nighters in the dorm-floor’s student lounge would tell me I’d come in, cook, talk to them, do all sorts of stuff, but in a way that you just knew something was not quite right; something was off a tick. Sometimes my words wouldn’t seem quite coherent for a moment or two, or that I would rarely blink.

I knew I could be sleepwalking, but narcolepsy?

The symptoms of narcolepsy most commonly begin between the ages of 10 and 25. That’s right in the zone when all this shit started for me.

I’m not sure if I’m in shock about this revelation, but I’m definitely stunned. Is it possible? Is there any chance whatsoever that any of this could be on the mark?

“Damn,” I say to her on the edge of succumbing to the alarming prospect of it being true. “Maybe I am a narcoleptic.”

“Nah,” she says with a sinister grin. “I’m just fuckin’with ya’. ‘Night.”



As she giggles on her way to the bedroom, I’m not sure if I want to kill her or kiss her.  What I do know is that I am experiencing more than a mere sense of relief. I’m almost ecstatic.

Can you imagine the nightmare scenario of actually being a narcoleptic? What must it be like to ceaselessly go through such a paralyzing nighttime ritual only to live in fear that you could fall asleep against your will during what should be your waking, productive hours? That in midsentence or mid-thought, you could just








© 2015 Joseph P. Buonfiglio     All Rights Reserved.

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2 thoughts on “NARCOLEPSY? ME?!

  1. avatar Sleepy John Estes says:

    I was in San Diego years ago and met a book dealer who was narcoleptic. He told me a story about a meeting at a coffee shop that he had with another guy who also turned out to be narcoleptic. The two of them slept there for half an hour, woke up and continued their conversation grumbling that they had been served cold coffee. 😉

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