I’m in a sweat suit. I am a guy who purposely wears a sweat suit to try and sweat as little as possible.
What do I mean by this. Well, if you conserve energy properly, you can control how much you sweat. Therefore, the Professor at the university prescribed to me a sweat suit, in order to manage my sleep better.
Wait, let me start over.
I can only get four hours of sleep. Getting to sleep is not the issue. The issue is that I always wake up at the fourth hour. The missing hours ad up until I start falling behind on my work. It got to the point where even my mentors started worrying. Then they referred me to a professor in the science wing.
He took a good look at me and leaned back in his chair. “So, then, why is it that you… find yourself ‘incapable’ of sleeping?” As he spoke, his pauses and emphases were punctuated with airy hand gestures. The amount he moved could be considered nervous or anxious if he didn’t move so graciously.
“Well,” I said, “Getting to sleep isn’t the problem–”
“Right, right, it’s the ‘staying’ asleep.” His voice cast a veneer of irony over his words. “That was the terminology used by your colleague who referred you. My sincerest apologies.”
He twirled a finger in the air and pointed at a cabinet. His body shot up, as if followed by the finger, and he opened the cabinet. He took something out and slammed it down toward the desk–just before it hit, he placed it gently. He opened his hand and revealed a white, plastic jar on the counter. He then held the top with only two fingers, as if to showcase the bottle while saying “eyes only.”
“These are some pills, that we have manufactured–in the lab. Don’t need a prescription… Not for these.” He placed the bottle in my hand. “Take one a day. Sleeping problems: gone.”
“Thank you professor, but, the thing is, I didn’t want just a temporary solution to–”
“Temporary? No. No! We need to train the body first. Sleep is… A muscle. Yes. Sleep is a muscle. Some muscles are weak. Need warm ups. Need assistance. Body-weight first, and then light weights, etcetera, and so-on. Same thing here.” His face stayed neutral for a moment. “Also, it’s for the research.”
Looking down at the plastic bottle in my hand, I saw that a label that had once been stuck to it was torn off.
“Yes! The research, of course. When your colleague referred you, did they tell you anything… about the nature of my work?”
I told him they had not.
“No matter, no matter. We’ll get you set up.”
Later that day, a student in a lab coat brought me a package. Inside were some articles of black clothing and a typed letter from the professor.
The first article of clothing was what the letter called a sweat suit. It was an elastic, one-piece garment composed of mineral-woven nano-tube fabrics. The second and third pieces of clothing were some black gym shorts and a t-shirt. According to the letter, I was required to wear these on top of the sweat suit. Embedded on the wrist of the sweat suit was a strip of LCD panel, somewhat like a calculator’s display.
This, the letter explained, would teach me to control my mental state by suppressing anxious, sweat-inducing thoughts. Physically, it would teach me to conserve movements and avoid overexertion.
The objective was to constantly maintain mental and physical complacency. I would wear the suit for one week straight while maintaining the sweat levels displayed on the LCD. By training myself to keep the sweat levels low, my body could be taught to operate on a lower intensity. The letter claimed that doing this would bring extremely helpful data to the Professor and his assistants. At the bottom of the letter, written in handwriting like a last second addendum, it mentioned my sleep would get better.
As instructed, I put on the suit before bed and took one of the pills–in the morning, my trials would begin.
At first, the biggest contributor of sweat came from trying to relinquish the feeling that I wore something ridiculous. My sweat levels sometimes hit the triple digits when forced to be near someone for a prolonged period of time. The risk of having another person question or comment on my get-up brought worse anxiety than before this experiment began.
I started avoiding all problematic situations. I learned that being on the move was always a better option than standing around. By walking through the grocery store or a parking lot, I could focus on the task of moving from point A to point B while dodging all glances and confrontations. These behaviors significantly reduced my sweat levels, so I naturally let them reshape my perception and motives. At the same time, I wondered about the ramifications this evasive behavior could have on my self-esteem. The progress I made toward keeping my sweat levels down was not something I wanted to lose.
Eventually, I was teaching myself to stay out of other people’s perceptions entirely. If I happened to wander down a grocery aisle with another person, I would quietly walk behind them while they inspected products. Even if they knew I was there, they would only know me as someone walking by–if they were unable to identify or recognize me after the fact, then I might as well have been invisible in that moment. This thinking kept my sweat levels as low as the single digits. While waiting in lines, which had once given me a creeping and lingering nervousness, I learned to focus my attention on things that pleased my senses. It turns out that a few perfunctory glances at the cashier is actually less stressful than avoiding their gaze altogether.
The grocery store presented the perfect amount of obstacles to me. My visits to the grocery shop were even helping me enter a deeper state of bliss. I don’t think it had anything to do with being surrounded by groceries. Instead, the atmosphere of the store, alone, put me at ease. I’ve never seen a confrontation in a grocery store that escalated beyond line cutting. And even if violence was to break out, I could easily scurry behind any number of aisles or emergency exist. Moreover, it was easy to get lost in pleasant day-dreams in every aisle. I often imagined what life would be like if I let the food product in front of me suddenly become the staple of my everyday diet. In the cat and dog food aisle, I pondered what life would be like to own a pet.