Awake too early. Body has not yet completed its knitting back together, the overnight update is incomplete, interrupted midway. Half-installed is as bad as nothing having been installed at all. If I do not fall back to sleep, I shall be dysfunctional the day long. Program corrupted.
I lay the palm of one hand upon my belly, the other upon my sternum, and I breathe myself through the panic of not sleeping. Panic being the main begetter of tiredness. One foresees how tired one shall be in four hours’ time – or whenever it is the clock dictates you must rise – and the prediction of exhaustion sets like gelatine within one’s bones. The negative intention nourishes wakefulness, it fulfils its own doom-laden prophecy.
Deep breaths in and out, in and out. Close eyes. Scan bones in 3-D. Watch them loosen. Feel oil melt around joints. Fingers and toes become slack as an old bicycle chain. Heart slows. Lungs rise and fall in effortless motion.
I am sorry body, I say, I am sorry for asking you to bear so much. Ask–I didn’t even ask, I made you bear it, I imposed upon you. But thank you for accepting it all. Thank you for the wise messages you send me, the ones that say “enough” (food and drink), the ones that say “more” (sleep and movement), the ones that say, “go on” (when you feel spent, but there’s a dribble in the tank). I know I don’t always listen to you, although occasionally I do, like now.
The panic of sleeplessness subsides. I move from scanning the inside my body to floating outside of it. How many people in this conurbation lie awake right now, sleep dampened by Monday morning panic, brain bolstered into action in advance of its rostered time?
I am small in the context of this bed, this house, this town. I’m staying in a city, under a flight path, and I hear a plane fly low overhead. It’s filled with half-awake, half-dreaming, half-living, half-dying people who only half-know why they’re going where they’re going. They are me. I am them. Another dazed body in this city, on this island, nursing my tiny helium-filled concern that churns: How will I get through the day feeling leaden?
I’m looking down on the whole of the north now. Most people are fast asleep, some are sleepless, and some are waking and moving, cradling concerns, swaddling them to their chests as they shuffle into the new week.
Look at that young one huddling at Newry train station, numbed face up-lit by the blue light of a scrolling phone screen. See that middle-aged one driving at eighty, hammering down an empty motorway, that fast stretch around Ballymena, twenty miles of his journey done, and he doesn’t remember getting here (he dreams of self-driving cars, yet his does it already). Over there, look at that old one mechanically buttering toast and adding marmalade she’ll not taste, hear her shout at the radio: ‘Bloody politicians!’
I rise higher, higher above my body, I am as high as the plane I just heard, I rise above it until so I can see beyond Ireland’s borders. I can see a whole section of the globe. I can see the sun coming up in the east. The western sky is star-filled dark navy, and I’m pulled deeper into it, beyond the earthly madness of the waking world.
I’m floating in the vastness of space where my sleeplessness is so small and insignificant that I can’t find it anymore, it has gone. I might be asleep, I might not. The palms of my hands have melted into the skin of my body: skin on skin, parts indistinguishable. Nothing matters. What was eating me? Nothing matters.