Silverfish

I don’t really sleep at night. Well, I sleep, but not soundly. I don’t really sleep all the way through unless I’m drunk, and even then I’m not convinced I get a ‘good night’s sleep’.

I can only really lay in one position, but I always try others and then can’t doze off because I’m not comfortable. I stir at the smallest sound and sometimes I lay awake wondering how many minutes I’ve been laying awake thinking about how many minutes I’ve been laying awake thinking about how many minutes I’ve been laying awake. My bladder gets so full at times that I’ll wake up after briefly nodding off and I don’t know if I’ve, you know, had an accident or not. I never have, not since I was four, but as I’m teetering on the edge of sleep and wake, and unable to tell which is the other, anything – even that – is possible.

It’s the only time you see, when my mind works as it is supposed to. It’s the only time I’m me without trying. It’s the only point of my day (04:13, generally. Sometimes 03:34, and occasionally 05:07) when I’m not wracked with the combinations of guilt and pleasure and angst or doubt and happiness or sadness or confusion and delight that characterise my daily struggle; the monumental effort required to fuel myself to force against and on through, what I suppose could only commonly be referred to as “reality”. God it’s hard. Not the being awake at my time, that’s easy – I don’t try, it just… happens, I suppose. It’s natural. God I love it. No, I mean the being awake at those “normal” times is the hard part. The dragging of myself to a standing start with the aid of various electronic noises. The nudge in the ribs if I’ve left the same chirruping away like a demented cyborg disciple demanding acknowledgement and vindication: That is hard. Waking up because you’re unsure if you’ve pissed your marital bed or not, even though the extraordinarily powerful conditioning that your parents submitted you to when you were too young to protest would never allow you to make such an abhorrent subconscious choice (admittedly I’m somewhat thankful for this. Not exactly a conversation I’d ever relish having with anyone I’m sharing a bed with); that’s not hard.

Everything about that time of morning, from the way my eyes work, to the way my limbs move, is just so easy I don’t even consider it. It’s only now, in the light and alleged clarity of the daytime, that I think about how things are at night. Like the cross hatch of the floor tiles which etches on my retinas every time I turn the bathroom light on; how it angles as I droop my head to a shoulder, how I can line it back up and close my eyes to see it again. Everything crackles at that time. I feel everything against the same fingertips through which I feel nothing during the day. The shadows cast from ancient, buried woodchip scatter every wall and remind me of tiny animals – but only now. At the time, they’re just like me, just there, existing on maximum and blocking light in their tiny way. We all just are, until we start thinking about why, at which point we probably think we’ve achieved some existential plain or something. I just get flustered and slump in a chair and think egotistically about “how pleasant ignorance must be.”

Take the Silverfish. Glittering little crud munching scavengers, oblivious even to a giant that has just stepped on or over them, dropped his pyjamas around his ankles and slumped down, blinking and lolling his head, onto the great inverted ceramic mountain at whose foot they worship, devouring all trace of sacrificial mould and moisture they can locate and muster. Filling themselves is their mission, never stopping because the only facet of their mission exists in the filling of themselves. Brilliant. I have watched them on so many nights once my pupils have adjusted to the sudden brutal incursion of light. Each and every night, I always assume they have acknowledged me as I’ve traipsed clumsily across their midnight realm, but then I sit there with my head resting on my shoulder, and I’m telling you, they don’t have a clue. Oh sure, on some basic level, a shape just invaded the space that they are in, but there is no question of what this might all mean for them. They flitter between the white speckled tiles and the dark grey grout as my light-abused eyes lose them and find them again. They flicker, perfectly silver and more mechanical than the articulated metallic fish pendants you always used to see when I was younger. They’re so tiny that I can’t see if they have stopped to devour a microscopic prey, or if they’re dropping a minuscule load. They are just there. In the light of day, images online show them as a rank little flaky shrimp with six alarming centipede legs protruding from under a crusty grey shell. In my time, they just are, so am I, and we get on just fine when I’m not treading on them, or thinking about them. Everything is so much shinier at that time, especially the Silverfish.

It’s usually about this time that I’ve been awake for too long; long enough to start losing my strength. Thoughts about burglar alarms and whether to refill the glass on my bedside table start to filter through my perfect haze, and once or twice, I’ve shattered it all at once by catching the exact perfect angle of the ever so slightly raised screwhead on the threshold of the bedroom door, stabbing the ball of my foot quite impressively – without either meaning or intention, ironically enough – but from there, there’s absolutely no return. Before I know it, I’m fully dressed and covering my eyes with tinted lenses, in a last-ditch, desperate attempt to artificially render the dimly lit paradise in which I function so well, beneath the awful brilliance of the sun.

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