Many years back I enjoyed the comfort of a two-man cabin on my own, which was great as I also enjoyed my own company. Until one mid-morning when I was joined by a fellow Marine (who turned out to be a bloody good bloke as it happened.) His first words of introduction were “I have a sleeping condition known as nocturnal lagophthalmos” ~ “Oh” Says I… He continued; “Well it’s not a problem for me, though it may be a problem for you because I sleep with my eyes open – sometimes fully open, other times just half-open.” I had to say some thing in reply to his introductory comment but words failed me, so I sympathetically mumbled “Not a problem for me mate.”
It actually was a problem, as there was more to follow… “I also suffer from sleep apnoea, which means I stop breathing too – but don’t worry because my subconscious kicks in after 30 seconds or so, then I suck air back in.” ~ “You are joking mate?” Says I… Unfortunately he was quite serious. That first night was quite bizarre, as I laid awake listening out for the phenomenon to happen. True to his word I heard him stop breathing several times, each time I counted him out until he gulped air and his respiration organ pumped again. From that day forth he was named ‘Iron Lung!’
As my bunk was closest to the window I had to walk by his bunk if nature called in the silent hours, which was quite alarming as he often laid asleep on his back just staring up into space. I once stopped and cautiously stared down at him – as he blinked and said “aw-right mate, I’m wide awake, I can’t sleep.” Which caused me to leap backwards “FOR FUDGE SAKE MAN, IT’S LIKE SHARING A CABIN WITH THE LIVING DEAD!” Fortunately I was promoted a month later, which meant a move across into the WO & SNCO’s Mess that was singular and palatial in comparison. Iron Lung enjoyed his own company in the two-man cabin up until the day he left the Corps six months later, he being deemed too unsuitable for ‘A N. Other’ Marine to join him. His leaving presents from the blokes were the usual mixture of RM Cdo Plaque, mounted Cdo Dagger, etc, as well as an unusual handmade box with an engraved brass plate atop it “In Case Of Emergency”
Contained within the box was a small hammer and three small wooden stake’s, which was more a gift for his fiancée (soon to be wife.) Yours Aye.
Music video by ‘Faithless’ performing Insomnia. (c) 1996 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT (UK) Limited