Sunday, April 7, 2013


She lingers in that middle space, that hazy limbo between sleeping and waking. Maybe sleep will once again evelope her. That is the favourable outcome. She doesn't dare to 'hope', or attach any active voice to this sentiment. She merely waits, passively. When she becomes aware of her waiting, realising she can no longer quench her waking consciousness, she turns over and checks her bedside clock: 3:05am. Great! A half hour earlier than last night.
The rising and falling motion of her husband's body beside her, the nasal ripplings of breath, in and out, in and out, rather than having a calming, hypnotic effect, serve only to make her resentful and even more awake. She lies on, trying to employ the usual strategies of falling asleep she has read up on: empty your mind, focus on your breath and lie still. She begins counting her breaths, in for five, out for five...
The more she breathes, the more awake and annoyed she becomes. 'If this doesn't work', say all of the sleep experts, 'get up and do something else'. So once again, she is up, tiptoing downstairs, wondering how to fill these nocturnal hours.
The cats, asleep on the sofa, sleepily raise their heads, clearly put out by this interruption. Cato sleeps on, wrapping a paw around his head in determined refusal to be so rudely awakened. Tess however, sidles up to her, affectionately nuzzling her head into her arms, purring loudly and playfully coaxing her towards the pantry, where she knows the food is stored. Both cats are drawn to the food, and once they have eaten their fill, settle back to sleep, leaving her once again awake, and at a loss.
The back garden and patio, usually so dark and dull, shaded by high brick walls are tonight bathed in luminous moonlight. She opens the sliding door and floats noiselessly out. Though she spends a lot of time in her garden, none of this is familiar to her. She feels blanketed by the velvety sky, the grass is so soft, almost smooth, like lava, and the plants and shrubs exude an exoticism afforded by the silvery glint of the moon. She lies down on the flat of her back, as she used to always do as a child, making pictures of the clouds. Now, she just gazes up at the sky and waits. She's not 'taking it all in', as in that clicheed expression of moments such as these. Rather, she just gazes, waiting for something to move her. She feels oddly safe out here, safe but detached, like in a dream, a sort of fleeting sense of harmony that she experiences as a listener rather than musician. More and more, her life seems to be like a dream and she's finding it harder and harder to cling onto any sense of reality.
A sudden chill makes her sit up and wrap her gown more tightly around her. She sneezes, gets up, and decides to move. She takes a tin of woodstain and a brush from the garden shed, and begins to treat the shed, a job she had meant to do weeks before now. The soft motion of the brush as it easily glides up and down, changing the faded wood to a deeper, richer red, somehow gives her a sense of purpose. She, yes she, was actively doing this task and the results were immediately visible. She keeps going, the tedious, repetitive nature of the job calming her mind, and the potent smell of the woodstain keeping her focused on this moment.
As she painted, deepening the colour on the shed, she doesn't notice the sky lightening, the moon and the stars receding, the distant sound of birds singing. Only when she finished, and replaced the lid on the tin, did she realise it was morning. Today would be another busy day, and once she rolled into the hospital it would be straight into her rounds. She would go about her day in her usual way, counting down the hours until the end of her shift, when she could come home, and do as she always did, which was to count the hours until her next shift would begin. Whoever says that we don't become institutionalised in this society is a fool, she thinks. Where is the room for magic?
As she makes her morning coffee, she looks out at the newly painted shed, the vague impression of experiencing the beautiful transition from night to day still with her. It is fleeting, but it is enough to support her through the tedium, the senseless, deadening routine, until hopefully the next such moment.

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