The first time, he's slick with sweat and smoking the wrong brand and in another part of town. Because it's new, he can stumble his way back home, put out the cigarette, forget it ever happened. The first time can still be the only, can still be a fluke. It can still be a dream. Bury it, and it is.
Insomnia plays games with memory. Everyone in a normal state forgets their keys or leaves the lights on. This is just a larger scale, a one-time crisis that will turn over time into a water-cooler joke. People get lost. They forget why they walked into a room. Exhaustion forces these together, maybe. There's nothing to worry about.
There's nothing to worry about when he leans his head back into a couch cushion, closes his eyes, and opens them in the middle of a busy street to blinding headlights and blaring horns. He runs to a sidewalk lined with broken bottles and an old needle and a bloodstain that is very much not a dream and wants to tell himself that it is—and doesn't. He knows enough to stay sane. If he starts rationalizing what makes no sense, he'll snap. He looks at the people on the edges of society, the fringe muttering to itself of threats nonexistent, and hopes never to be a member. He feels alone. They are alone and reach out, non sequiturs on cardboard. They appeal to the masses, call out warnings of the knowledge to which delusion makes them privy. He has enough self-awareness to know how much money he puts into brand names instead of charity and a grand enough sense of apathy to think he deserves it. If this is sanity, embrace it.
Sanity means closing your eyes and wishing you could wake up from the dreams you aren't having. Sanity means riding a strange bus home because you walked across the city while your mind took a break. Sanity means insomnia, and if sanity means that the name is supposed to make the disease bearable, then it's bearable when the bags under his eyes are a thin layer of lavender and bearable when they're caked-on violet and his eyelids weigh a thousand pounds.
He tells himself it's like another flight. Fall asleep and wake up somewhere else. He does that all the time. There's nothing to be afraid of on the ground. It's the same principle. It's true for a while, but soon it's not exactly the same; there is no other sleep. He's tired of acting cheerful and drinking coffee and dodging cars. He's tired.
When he almost dies, he's so out of it that he's crying, laughing, leaning over the edge of a staircase that really came from nowhere. His last memory is from an hour and two miles ago. He's not sure how he got there, and he doesn't want to know. Later there'll be panic and worry and a sick wish for nightmare. He'd give anything to dream of falling and dying in that little alley because he'd give anything to dream.
At first, he tries to fix it. Diseases are curable. There's a system for these things. The system tells him to suck it up. He was worried that he might get addicted to sleeping pills, but that's suddenly a non-issue. The support groups are worse. They feel more like a choice. He wonders if he's trading his humanity for rest but knows it doesn't matter; it's worth it. He wants to hate that he'll do anything for sleep, then wants to hate that he can't care. When he tries for some regret, he feels himself waking up at the top of a flight of stairs, then pictures the moment a second too late. Then he doesn't mind.
He starts to lose himself to fear, so Tyler takes over.