Thoughts scrape the inside of my skull like dead bodies dragged through a forest late at night. They dart like eyes in the darkness, bouncing off the walls looking for a resting place but finding nothing except infinite momentum. It’s too hot and it’s too cold, covers half-strewn across my legs and torso as I rustle restless relentlessly. Insomnia. Insomniac. Insomniache. I want to sleep but I’m wide awake. I don’t know what time it is, but it feels like 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am, yesterday, tomorrow, last night, last year. The start of the universe and the end of the world. I hear cars pass through the curtains and the window, hear you sleeping silently beside me, you rising and falling peacefully and calmly, the way it should be.
But then I wonder if you’re actually there or just a figment of my imagination, whether me being awake is just a dream, that really I’m asleep and lost deep within myself, that this reality is unreality and this unreality my life. The lines are blurred and I can no longer tell. The dreamer examines his pillow. I pinch you and you murmur something, inaudibly disgruntled, and shift your limbs slightly, edging them ever further from me and towards the edge of the bed. But there is nowhere you can go. You are on the inside edge, the side against the wall, and there is nowhere to go except to push yourself ghost-like through concrete and glass, a dead soul sliding through atoms to mix with the crisp air of winter.
I get out of bed and I feel my way through particles of dark, tiptoeing as quietly as possible so you as not to wake you up, and I make my way to the kitchen. I open the fridge and bask in its cold yellow glow while I look for something to drink or eat. But there’s nothing I feel like so I close it again. I rub my arms as I walk towards the bathroom, wince as I turn its bright light on, close my eyes once the piss is flowing because I can hear my aim fine. I flush, then wash my hands and catch my face in the mirror as I do so – large, dark circles under my eyes, my skin a sallow, sickly yellow, pimples and veins decorating the surface of my flesh. I hope it’s just the light, that this is not who I am or have to be or what I have grown into, but an unfair reflection, a grotesque caricature, a replica that exists only in the parallel world of that late night/early morning mirror, but as I splash water on my face, I feel how old I’ve grown beneath my hands. I know what’s been lost.
I head back to the bedroom via the fridge again – still nothing I want, but I want something in there I know it – and then fill a glass with water and drink it so fast my teeth hurt. I refill it and head back to the bedroom. I can’t see you in the darkness. I can barely see myself. But I can feel the cold glass in my hand and I know I am here. I place the glass down on the bedside table, then take a swig, then put it down again. I sit down on the edge of the bed and the mattress sags under my weight. I lie down. I touch your arm to know that you’re still there. I hear all the words you’ve ever said to me run through my mind. I try to think of the last time I saw all the friends of mine who are dead now and remember what, unknown to us, would be our parting words. Always so much left unsaid.
I lie back, eyes wide open and listen to the buzz of the apartment. Everything is magnified. The clock ticks louder with each second, flitting between the past and the future, my future and my past. The ebb and flow of your breath increases with each inhale and exhale. I can hear the fridge hum from the kitchen, even though I know I can’t. A car drives by outside but it sounds like it’s racing through my skull. My heart is beating loud enough for two. The hours pass and as they do I start to make out the shapes inside the room – the bed, the desk, the wardrobe, the record player, the clothes lying on the floor, books, a coat hanging from a hook, the radiator, the heaped duvet next to me, my naked feet wriggling restlessly, the bones of my toes trying to escape their prison. I watch the pale rectangle of curtain grow brighter and brighter until there is a world outside. There is a world outside and the world outside is waking up. I yawn and yearn for sleep.