The Insomnia of Jerry A. Prufrock
Rick Neece

Let us make best use of the time still left us by beginning our discussion with the assumption, here at the outset, that we can be sure that this is not about his discontent; though we know he one time thought the more lessons he learned, the more content he would grow -- do we not? You have given us that "he once ran on the notion that the vast amount of the great unknown could be lessened by his learning one more thing" -- yes? You tell us early on, do you not, that "he once found a sort of contentment in his surety that he would one day find a sign." Need we make aloud assumptions about his finding said sign herein? Might we find sign here? We must have sign. Hear?
Moving on we see, from page three, that he one time slept through the night. And how was it you said that he slept? Soundly, yes? Sound enough -- was it not? -- that when your tornado touched down during that night, roundly destroying the farm about a mile from his house, he did not hear it. We are told -- are we not? -- that his sleeping was so sound that "when barns and silos were exploding, and pigs were flying around him he was not aroused."
And what does this say? Dare we say this says anything more than to tell us the depth of his slumbers? Let's say we would not find it less than extremely difficult to see more from this information. But isn't this precisely what we do? Do we not begin to see something larger here? But then we are burdened with the news that "he awakened amazed to find he'd slept the night through" -- are we not? And then we are further burdened with, "he woke up murmuring that he felt he'd missed something important." Are we meant to make an assumption about his missing this tornado?
Look on page thirty-four. What you have us looking at here is years past that storm. It is two-twenty-seven a.m. He is lying in bed awake and listening to the partner, who is quietly sleeping, but reciting aloud in his sleep his lessons in Japanese. He is not understanding what the partner is saying. He is not Japanese, nor is he a student of Japanese; but then, neither is the partner, but the partner is -- is he not?
Notice paragraph two. Here we get a clue -- yes? At least, I suppose, we may safely say we may be coming as close to getting as much of a clue as we may expect you to give us here. For even though we know the second sentence you give us does not exactly say he's understanding, we may certainly say he's appearing to be understanding a wee part of it -- yes? It appears that he understands something he's hearing of the words the partner had said on earlier pages. It appears that he understands a word or two of the words the partner had been trying to teach him to say back on page twenty-eight, back "in the light of a day when they were both awake." Back when "he listened to the partner, repeating the partner's words.
So what is this that is happening now? He is now having a hard time, remembering later, exactly how it was that it went because "that Japanese phrasing is all different from the American" -- right? We know, from what you have told us of what the partner has told him, that the rhythm with which the syllables are said is almost as important -- or was it that the partner said it was more important? -- Never mind, it's not that important, but I think we may consider it safe to say that the rhythm of the syllables certainly is at least as important to the meaning as correctly pronouncing said syllables. Would you not agree?
And we can see that he understands something of this; and that he is understanding something of this phrase the partner is saying in his sleep, which is repeated in a rhythm you herein describe as "something not unlike Morse Code." And then you give us the rhythm -- do you not? -- as, "Dot. Dot. Dot. Dash -- Dash -- Dash. Dot. Dot. Dot." And you continue with "something in a rhythm not unlike a heartbeat 'Pa-doom. Pa-doom.'"
Now, while I believe that one of the things you are consciously not wanting to say here is that this is about rhythms or meanings: let's assume, for just a moment, that this is precisely what you want to say. You give us this something, in this rhythm, that he is hearing the partner say in his sleep. This something that the partner had said earlier. This something that you say he knows meant "something like, but not exactly like, 'Excuse me? Please? May I this question ask? Speaking of today? The weather nice is, is it not?'" And we have seen in our reading that the partner has told him that "these Japanese are a people polite in the extreme." We have read that the partner has said to him that "these Japanese are a people much too polite to come to a point," -- meaning The Point, if you will -- "in any way a soon way." You give us that "they are far and away too polite to demand answers, but that that politeness given properly demands that that politeness be returned."
And we are given that he knows the proper response to the partner's question is, "Hai, soo desu ne," which is given as meaning "something similar to, 'Yes, I agree.'" And we begin to see that this response is meaningless except in light of the structure and rhythm of the response properly given. For I believe you will agree that you have us beginning to see that neither this question nor this response has much to do with the weather.
At the last you have him lying, on page thirty-nine, "With one leg out from under a white sheet, anesthetized and listening the night away. Eyes closed, but wide awake. Ears open and hearing the partner's repeated question." You also tell us here that he feels a pain within his chest. "A small one, deep, but nothing scary."
Now, this is not about a heart attack, but let's suppose, for just a moment, that this is about an attack of the heart. You give us that "he is a little scared of this little pain in his chest he has," and that "if he could, he would send out an S.O.S." But, we see too, that "he is soothed by the murmur of the partner's syllables." And you give us that "the sounds of the partner's murmurs made sounds like singing." And that "the murmur of the partner's syllables sounds similar to the murmur of his heart inside him."
Now, let's suppose this is about music. It could be -- could it not? He is lulled by this rhythm. This lullaby of triplets against doublets, "Pa-dot, dot, doom-dot." It is pleasant in its strain of three against two, "Pa-dash, dash, doom-dash." So posit this: Might this not be a love song?