Monday, December 20, 2010

When The Lights Are Turned Off

Is when I seem to have the most to say. I grew up sharing a room with my sister, and we used to lie awake and she would test me on my spelling and general knowledge like capitals of countries, and we would talk as long and as quietly as we could until someone (probably I) fell asleep. Now I share a room with Vincent and I still start chattering when it's bedtime; all of a sudden I remember all the things I forgot to tell him while the lights were on, and all of the questions I wanted to ask him but didn't, and it's very hard to stop although I eventually have to when the tenth "One more thing?" is met with a pause and then a really drowsy "Mmm". Vincent is very, very patient, and if I loved him just a bit less, he might never get to sleep, ever.

I used to be very afraid of the dark, and I wonder if hearing my sister's voice helped me feel less so. I have always felt like darkness inspires confidences though; I enjoy the sun but I could never love it the way I love the moon, and I don't know if I would ever have wanted to fall in love during the day. When I was going through a very bad patch a few years ago I would lie awake and cry very quietly while a line from my favourite song played over and over in my head; I knew during the day I was unhappy, but it wasn't until night that I felt like it was too much. In Fiesta, Hemingway writes 'It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing'. I think it's partly because at night there are no distractions; with the darkness, everything fades away and all that's left is you; you and your thoughts.

Being left alone in the dark with my thoughts is still sometimes a very bad thing. The feeling of aloneness from being the only one awake can make you imagine you really are alone; I wonder if it's pre-empting dreams when you want to cry for help but no-one hears you. I know when I lie awake that if I called out, Vincent would immediately wake up, but sleep seems such a separation.

Sometimes though, being alone with my thoughts at night is a very good thing. I often think I'm the luckiest girl in the world but when I'm in bed and I hear Vincent breathing, I really feel like nothing can be that bad as long as the day ends like this, and that whatever happens tomorrow, it can't be so terrible. On the other hand, occasionally it makes me feel like I'm not doing anything of consequence to help people for whom tomorrow will be so terrible, and then I start to feel very sad and guilty, especially when it's children I'm thinking of, like the "night commuters" in Uganda.

It seems very frivolous to write this after mentioning the night commuters, but it's what I sometimes think at night, and in the rational light of day (although it's actually nearly half past midnight; ironically writing about talking to Vincent at night meant he got straight to sleep because I'm in another room) I can just appreciate that, for better or worse, life for me is so that I think things like this (although I'd really like to not be a crazy person). The first time I thought it I must have been reading Dorothy Parker because of the style, although I'm pretty certain she would take me apart if she came back from the bar in the sky and read it. This is what I sometimes think when I lie awake in bed: When you lie awake in bed with his lips resting open on your ear, his breathing even in his sleep, your arms enclosed in his arms, body nestled into his... and you think of him, like this, with every other girl with whom he ever shared a bed; you know, in your insanity, your life is not your own.

In case I have you running for a basin, here is an antidote. You could be a little nice about it though; we're obviously having a confidential little night-time talk.


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