The Pain of Insomnia
I slept well last night! You’re probably wondering why I’m giving you an update on that, and the reason is – it was such a relief!
For several nights previously I had woken up at 2.45 am, and didn’t get back to sleep for two or three hours, eventually waking feeling groggy and out-of-sorts. The dreaded insomnia had struck again! It’s probably not surprising – not feeling well, brain frazzled from proofreading, anxious about the book launch, and so on and so on, but the result was (and I’m sure will be again)
It reminded me of a piece I wrote about insomnia some time ago, and I thought I’d share it again:
Your eyes open. The room is thick with darkness. Soft sounds of breathing stir the air beside you. But why have your eyes opened? You didn’t choose it. You didn’t decide you wanted to wake up, that you wanted to be part of the world at this precise moment. And yet, it’s happened.
Your eyes seek out the clock: 3.05. The red digits glare back at you. The same time as last night and the night before – stretching back in time to the first 3.05 to crack open the night, and forward to a 3.05, unimaginable, but recognizable from its distinctive way marker: 3.05. The guardians of the dark check their watches as you pass by: And stands the clock at 3.05? – whispers rustle along your route.
But why 3.05? The hour when the body is at its lowest ebb. Will this moment – this particular display of digits on the clock, these particular hours and minutes suspended on a breath between pulsating day and empty night, this particular agony of time – will this be the moment on some future night when your end will arrive? When the doctor will close your eyes and check his watch – 3.05, he’ll say and the waiting nurses will turn away. At 3.05, it will be too late.
Is this current awakening a precursor of the moment of your death?
The weight beside you shifts and turns. Sheets wrinkle beneath you and echoing creases settle into your skin. You’re going to die with creases etched across your back.
You turn your head to the left and seek out the red digits again: 3.07. You’ve survived two more minutes. Perhaps that was it. The two-minute warning. The real time of death will be 3.07. You’ve only pressed the snooze button on death.
Louise, one of my main characters in The Broken Road also suffers from insomnia, but hers has a particular reason, as is revealed when she is introduced in chapter 2 of the book. Louise opened her eyes, and felt the wet on her lids. She hadn’t cried in the night for ages, but knew instantly what the time would be. Still, she moved her head on the pillow to see the clock. The red digits glared back at her: 03.50. Ten to four.
Matt was snoring lightly by her side. Her foot met the warmth given off by his sleeping body. Why now? When she thought she’d conquered it all. She turned on her side, and rolled into a ball, clutching her knees. The window was ajar and an occasional ripple of the curtains made her imagine a breeze on her cheeks, and the scent of the sea in her nose. She’d read a magazine article about reasons for a run of nights broken at a specific time. A portent of things to come, she recalled it saying. A whisper of the future like a sigh along a telephone wire. But the article had got it wrong. In her case, the awakening wasn’t a link to the future, but a dreadful reminder.