Last night I was tilting back glasses of yellow, smoking cigarettes and talking like a man who had a handle on things. The bar was crowded with smiling faces, the dance-floor a blur of bright dresses and dark suits.
Now though, I’m alone in my bedroom. My body hums in rejection to the whole idea of sleep. Thoughts race through my mind. I keep expecting these thoughts to arrive at a conclusion, whereupon I turn over, drift off into a satisfying slumber, wake up refreshed and go forth into the rest of my life with a brand new attitude. But, it ain’t happening.
I’m scared too. Of what? I don’t know. Something I forgot or did or said, or something I should be doing, apart from sleeping.
I throw off the cover and let the air at my legs. It’s 3am and I have work tomorrow. Fuck, today. I envision the pre-work routine; getting the bus, a quick coffee, the stale air of the classroom, devising plans, photocopying, checking my tired, weary red eyes in the mirror. I picture the students coming through the classroom door; The kids loud and boisterous, the teens slow and unenthused, the adults chirpy. How am I gonna do it?
Outside, a distant dog yaps. A car passes.
My mind jumps from past to present to future.
I think of last night’s sing-song. The choruses were belted out, loud and assured. The verses were fragile things, often solo efforts with muddled lyrics. We leaned in and willed on the one charged with taking us to the good parts. My cousin was confident with ‘Streams of Whiskey’ though. He galloped through the verses.
‘I have cursed, bled and sworn/Jumped bail and ended up in jail/Life has tried to stretch me/But the rope always was slack…’
I can’t think of the rest. The lines hang there, dissatisfied, like their journey has come to an abrupt and unwanted ending. I guess that’s what makes Shane McGowan such an amazing song-writer. When he puts words together, they belong to each other. I contemplate turning on my phone to check the lyrics but then I think of Paula and how I should never have given her such power. I don’t know what’s bringing my thoughts to her but I can’t control the bastards. The last few weeks were shit. I knew it was gonna happen but I clung on anyway. Let her do it, I thought. Still though, if I had more self-respect I would have split. How could I let someone waste my precious time like that, worrying over whatsapps?
I think of girls I have dumped. I’m haunted by the look in their eyes. What gave me the right to cause such hurt?
You can’t win.
I get out of bed. I get the pack of cigarettes from my shelf, open the window, sit on the bed and spark up a fag. The escalators are still. There isn’t a soul around. I see the ‘Hanging Bridge’ looming over the buildings. I like that bridge. So do the locals. There is a photo of it in every café in town. Portugalete and its famous hanging bridge.
‘How did you end up in Portugalete?’ Paula had asked, mystified.
‘Well, before I moved here, I was worried about two things more than anything else; not having any job and not having any friends. Dee promised me both, in Portugalete.’
And Dee had delivered. She was unhesitant and unrelenting in her help. Recently, she was told to move out of her apartment. There were two rooms available in my apartment.
‘Do you mind if I move in?’
She saw the look on my face, my shrug.
‘I understand if you don’t like the idea,’ she added.
‘It’s just we work together and socialise together and to live together too…’
‘Okay. I get it.’
What the fuck was I protecting? My solitude? I should have been a better friend.
The difference a day makes. Yesterday I felt like things were tidy, that behind the scenes things were somehow working in my favour. Today, the opposite. The tide was in, now its out.
I stub out the fag and close the windows. I lay down and look up at the ceiling. I try to concentrate on my breathing. I hear birds tweeting. Please.
What can’t be more than thirty minutes later a too loud alarm goes off. My bones, tongue and eyes are heavy. They have been touched by sleep and yearn for more. I force myself to sit up. Sleep has arrived and is ready to carry me away. I have to push it off and get outta bed.
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