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Not Quite Sleepless in Nearby Seattle

I tell people I live in Seattle, but it’s not true. I live in Renton, which is south of Seattle. When I tell people I live in Seattle they get a sense of where I am. If I tell them I live in Renton, they’ll have no idea where I am. I live in Renton because I found a nice house that I liked and could actually afford. A friend told me that Renton was once the place where criminals and prostitutes lived and worked. Been here three and a half years and haven’t knowingly seen either. But who knows? The key word is “knowingly.” In any event, Seattle sounds much more romantic than Renton. So, I tell people I live in Seattle.

It’s not that I can’t sleep. I can. It’s just that I can’t sleep at night. I’m wide awake at four, five, six in the morning. I’m up all night. When I do go to bed, blinds closed, I sleep quite well for five or six hours. This happens to me every twelve to eighteen months. Don’t know why it starts and don’t know why it stops, which it does in a couple of weeks. It does throw off my day, and night obviously. When I have dinner at 5:30 with my wife it can feel like I’m having wine with brunch, which I guess people do, but not me.

For some reason, when I’m in this phase I don’t have the same energy, drive, enthusiasm, creativity. I’m just wide awake all night. So, the question becomes: What to do with the time? I could read, but I can’t concentrate for long so don’t get that many pages read. I could listen to music but get bored. I could be up in my study writing the great American novel, but see above concerning enthusiasm and creativity. That leaves television or just sitting staring into space.

This not-quite-sleepless-in-nearby-Seattle started four days ago. I had a browse through Netflix offerings and found Dexter. I had watched the show years ago, but it seemed appropriate for all-nighters, so I’ve been binging on Dexter. I guess the first thing to say is I’ve fallen in love with Julie Benz who plays Rita Bennett, which actually means I have fallen love with Rita Bennett played by Julie Benz. Still, if I were sitting in a café reading a book drinking a latte and Julie Benz came in and sat next to me, I’d be well on my way to falling in love with the real live her, that is if she acted like Rita Bennett. I’m reaching the conclusion of season four and I know they kill off Rita at the end. Poor Dexter Morgan finds her dead in the bathtub filled with water and her blood. Big mistake, and personally devastating for me. Why wasn’t I consulted?

Here’s how I imagine our encounter: I’m sitting in the crowded café of the Elliott Bay Book Company reading a book, sipping a latte, minding my own business. I hear a voice ask if she can share my table, I look up and it’s Julie Benz. Of course, I say yes. She sits down, let’s her coat fall onto the back of her chair, and places her bag on the floor to her right. I can’t help myself and say: “Just let me say, and I promise I won’t bother you after I say it, you created a great character on Dexter. Fragile and vulnerable at the beginning, becoming confident and strong by the time she ends up in a bloody bathtub 48 episodes later.” She will thank me and ask what I’m reading as she reaches down into her bag to retrieve a book. I tell her, and as she puts her book on the table, I see it’s one of mine. I ask her if she likes the book and she, of course, tells me it’s absolutely great. Best book she’s ever read she says, but hasn’t made the connection that she is sitting with the author. I reach over the table and take the book. I ask her if she has a pen and she reaches back into her bag on the floor, pulls out a pen, and hands it to me. I sign the book. She is beautifully puzzled staring at my signature. She turns the book over and looks at my photo on the back cover. Finally it dawns on her who I am. She blushes. She tells me in minute pleasurable detail why the book is so great. With a very flirtatious smile and silken voice she suggests we leave the café and go to the restaurant bar a few doors down. Wisely she is unconcerned about age difference. We drink Cuba libras. We sit close as if sharing intimacies. When the evening is over, we stand outside the bar in the light rain and say goodbye. She turns to leave, stops, turns back to me, and kisses me. She smiles and then walks away. I stand in the rain watching her disappear. Because I’m married, I never see her again, but the kiss sustains me for years.

Well, something like that. I’ll work on it when I go to bed at five this morning. For now back to Dexter.

I find it is mildly disconcerting that my affection for Dexter Morgan, an obviously deranged, antisocial serial killer, is also strong, though in a different way from my feelings for Rita Bennett. From the very beginning I am rooting for him, hoping that he gets away with brutally killing yet another human being. It helps that Dexter’s “code” demands he only kill bad people, people who have kill other human beings. But still, my feelings of pleasure in his kills seems somehow ethically suspect. After all, he killed  around 130 bad guys in eight seasons. I blame the writers and Michael C. Hall for acting so well. I excuse him, Dexter not Michael, for his evilness through psychological explanations that quickly become ethical justifications. When he was three, he watched men cut up his mother with a chain saw and then leave him in a closed shipping container sitting in her blood. He sat there for two days before being rescued. So, obviously, it makes sense, it’s reasonable, that he became a killer. Thank God for that “code.”

The show is well written and well acted. If someone were to wrap me in yards of clear plastic tight to a table in a room completely covered in 4 millimeter thick high density tear resistant film and demanded I declare which actor I thought was the best, I’d have to say Jennifer Carpenter, who played Dexter’s sister, Debra Morgan. She was great. She had to cry in every other scene. Sometimes just tearing up, while other times collapsing in full blown on your knees break your heart weeping. Just to make things interesting, Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter started dating and eventually eloped one New Year’s Eve. It’s never good when our real world intrudes on our make-believe worlds. In this case it leads to an unsavory sense of incest. Thankfully they divorced. However, if my memory serves me well, sometime before the program ends, Debra wants to get it on with Dexter. Thing is they are not biological siblings. Dexter was adopted. Still, that shady sense of incest sticks like a stain on an old mattress.

Binging on Dexter also makes me realize if I were a good American patriot I’d learn how to speak Spanish. That’s for another day. It’s 5:00 a.m. and time to close the blinds and crawl into bed.

Copyright © 2019 Dale Rominger

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