I shuffle into my apartment with a hill where my back should be. This must be how Atlas felt when he carried the weight of the sky on his shoulders.
Somehow, my overworked feet carry me to my bathroom, even though they are fighting against me, trying to walk to the bed.
“Bed is the enemy feet”, I declare whilst reaching aimlessly for a light switch in the darkness.
Click. Flash. Light.
I feel my eyes squint in protest, as they attempt acclimatise to the bleak, artificial brightness that bounces off the bathroom walls. As soon as I greet my reflection, I immediately wish the light would shatter. What I look at (and what indeed looks back) is the result of 5 consecutive nights without sleep. The eyes are no more than bloodshot piss-holes in the snow, with inverted half-rainbows of purple and grey underneath them. The skin- like undercooked pastry covered with angry bursts of spots.
“You’ve gotta quit the third job Aislinn”
My reflection stares back with a blank expression, knowing as well as I do that quitting is not an option. I can barely pay rent as it is. I pick up a bottle from the side (let’s hope it isn’t bleach) and drink. My reflection drinks too- and I’m sure we can both taste the bitter dregs of a €5 bottle of wine.
The clock is mocking me. His twitching moustache turns uncaringly onwards, and the minutes pass by.
It’s 3am already.
I can see the bed in my peripheral vision- perfectly made, like it has never been slept in; I feel myself swallow down an overwhelming sense of fear and revulsion.
“Tonight is the night”, I say as I strip to my underwear- hating myself for the shake in my voice. From the window, I catch vision of the moon, half of his cratered face peeking out from behind a cloud.
“How are you Moonie? I didn’t see much of you last night- were you not in Ireland?”
The moon hovers silently- although I swear I could see him wink in confirmation.
We understand each other. Many dark hours we have spent sharing our troubles, and slagging off the sun. He doesn’t get much sleep either, as to why I’m not quite sure- he doesn’t talk much.
I’m about to procrastinate further- avoid the unavoidable process of ‘sleep’ and suggest the moon and I play a game, but he has fully disappeared behind a grey cloud.
I sigh and turn back to the dreaded bed. I reach out with my hands- heart thumping with anticipation- as a try to find the crisp, cold linen of the bed sheet. It feels unfriendly beneath my hands- even more so as I lie on top of it.
“Just close your eyes. Think about nothing.”
Exhaustion presses on me like sheet of lead, yet my brain won’t be quiet and let me drift off to sleep. I feel the familiar barrage of suppressed thoughts rise from the pit of my stomach like acidic bile that invades my brain.
I hear the clock ticking- imagine the moustache hands- throwing seconds of time away.
You- Will- Ne- ver- sleep- a- gain. You- Will- Ne- ver- sleep- a- gain.
Who would have thought that regret would feel so bitter and gut wrenching? It’s your soul’s way of saying “You’ve fucked up”. I close my eyes tighter- clench my teeth so hard they squeak.
What have I done with my life? I’m 32 and I’m stuck waiting tables, and serving pints to the drunkards of Belfast. If I’d have just studied that extra bit harder at school- paid attention instead of making an infamous name for myself as ‘the dumb hussy’.
I could have been a lawyer- I could have been something more to my parents than a disappointment.
I wouldn’t be so alone- only living to work, or to drown my sorrows in a cheap bottle of rosé.
“Sleep why are you avoiding me!?” I scream ripping open my eyes and searching for the clock- the hands tell me it’s 5:20 am.
I have to be up in less than 2 hours…
I feel the perspiration of panic line my body like another layer of skin, and I wonder why our worst thoughts and nightmares come to haunt us in the darkness of night.
Why does my brain betray me when I need it to shut up and sleep?
Think of nothing and sleep.
Think of nothing and sleep.
Think of nothing and…
‘Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.’
I open one eye with trepidation- I’m hallucinating. I must be, otherwise the blinking ‘07.00’ on my alarm clock would mean that I actually got an hour of sleep last night.
That’s progress at least!
I notice the sun has replaced the moon in the sky and his beams are pouring in through the window. He looks refreshed, and annoyingly jolly- like he’s happy to embrace the day, and does so with enthusiasm.
“Smug bastard” I mutter with a thick, heavy voice.