Hello darkness, my old friend

It's been happening a lot more often. Usually late at night, moments like this, where I'm lying on the bed alone and the heat from the bedroom is stifling and I'm choking on my phlegm from the countless cigarettes I've had hours before. I'm laying on my back - no, fuck, that's not comfortable - then I turn on my side and bury my face in my pillow, praying that some proverbial force will whack me on the back of the head and knock me into an unconcious slumber that'll get me through the night.

It's there. It's back.

A voice - well, not so much a voice, I don't hear voices and I don't respond to them in kind, so it's more of a thought - jumps in my head. "It's never left, Ernie. It's always been there." Laying dormant for years, all the negativity and self-doubt and second guessing and the pressure of work and family and life has seemed to swirl and morph into a shape of a dark cloud; a dark, thick cloud in the form of a giant black elephant, and this fucking elephant is standing on my goddamn chest while I'm trying to get a decent eight hours of sleep before work tomorrow.

Okay, no, seriously, I'm not fucking crazy. I don't imagine that there's literally a giant elephant on my bed while I try to fall asleep, but it makes for great symbolism, and I'm going to run with it, for now.

"The fuck you doing here?" I would ask, theoretically.

And the elephant would answer, "Fuck am I doing here? I've always been here. Was there when you were a kid when you dealt with the family, was there all through college. I've never left. You've pushed me in a corner for the last two and a half years, I'd say. I was, maybe, a tenth of the size I am now. But I've never left."

Hack, cough cough, sputter wheeze.

"You need to stop smoking," says the elephant.

"

I pause for a second. "I'm going to pull through this, you know. You're going to go away, for good."

"Fantastic. Maybe someone will do a Lifetime movie on your life, Meredith Baxter-Burney. You don't believe half the shit you say." Goddamn elephant, he sees right through me. "Besides," he says. "I'll never really go away. I'll get less obtrusive, perhaps, and maybe you'll forget about me down the line. But I'll still be here."

By now, the covers and the sheets and tangled the pillows are drenched in sweat, so I climb out of my bed and start making it again. "So, when are you going to be 'less obtrusive' so I can get some goddamn sleep?"

"I don't know," the elephant says. "When I feel like it. When you feel like it. Days, months. Not so sure. But in the meantime, while you're sulking and feeling sorry for yourself, I'll be watching infomercials." Since this is my imaginary sequence, the elephant is able to pick up my remote control, turn on my cable television and change channels. "You know, Ernie, you can become a millionaire just by working from home, thanks to tiny, tiny ads."

But I'm not paying attention, because I'm on my bed, curled up in a fetal position, wishing everything - the dark elephant-shaped cloud, my coughing fit, myself - would dissappear forever.