Yawning (for Jody)

by Jeff Oaks

Being bored. Taking off. Coming in for a landing. In need of oxygen. When I stroke my dog’s muzzle, he automatically opens his mouth in a half-yawn that I can turn into a full one by running my hand over the soft hair over his jaws and under his ears. His jaw, studded with teeth, is impressive. His enormous pink tongue lolls out, then stretches, curling finally up. Then the whole mechanism tucks back up into his beautiful face. If your friends don’t yawn along with you, get new friends; only those humans who lack empathy can resist the urge. Even chimpanzees find it contagious.

I was trying to think of an important moment in my life that revolved around or even involved a yawn, mine or someone else’s. Nothing occurred to me at all. Yawn, in other words. But of course the presence of an absence is a form of red meat to any writer, because there must be something there, repressed perhaps or so common as to be overlooked. If yawns are a way the body relieves stress, there must be some stress surely that can be explored…

At a certain point in the evening, I find myself yawning and know I need to go to sleep. My body is very clear about that signal. Anyone who knows me knows that I can lie down just about anywhere and go to sleep.

Now that I think about sleeping, I’m yawning more and more. I’ve drunk most of a large coffee but still I can feel my brain and eyes beginning to lose focus and grow fuzzy. Have I ever yawned in a dream? Not to my recollection. I have flown, breathed water, crawled out of collapsed buildings, transformed into deer and murders of crows and vampires. I have been shot, been scared, screamed my lungs out, and wept like a baby. But not a single yawn in all those scenarios.