Midnight. The grandfather clock strikes 12 times with a clear, high ring the same way it did at my grandparents’ house when I was a child followed a few breaths later by the deeper, older, more sombre notes of the church bell. The silence of the night is returned. The air is cooler outside, a forewarning of the change to come.
My room has remained unchanged for at least 20 years. I think my parents redecorated it in 1996 just after I’d left university and gone travelling in India. In a rather half childish, petulant mood I was cross that they hadn’t consulted me about removing all my posters of bands and fashion pictures of women. I mean how dare they? Seems so silly now. Although the walls are still adorned with memorabilia from the past. Photos of me with an old girlfriend and my old friend, G, with his girlfriend of the time. All of us perched on a white bridge over the river, hampers and fishing rods at our feet. 21st and wedding invites one behind the other on the red brick fireplace. The people who had 21sts went on to have weddings. One of the people who had a wedding went on to have a funeral. More fishing photos. Photos of my father, his hair always grey but face still handsome, inviting confidence. Random nicknacks brought back from family trips abroad. A wooden pirate from France, a wiry Sevillano dancer from Spain, his arm permanently arced above his head. There’s even a Weetabix sticker from the Eighties on the chest of drawers next to my bed. ‘Neet Weet Beet.’ They seem to have always been there.
I’m trying to give up smoking again. The last one I had was on Tuesday night, the 21st. 48 hours later it started. It’s so clear to me I need to stop. The fallout from a night of drinking and even just 3 or 4 smokes far outweighs any possible enjoyment that I get. How many more times will I tell myself this?
I’m really trying to avoid taking Xanax tonight. I’m probably taking it 5 times a week in varied doses.
It’s never really silent in the middle of the night because there’s normally a ringing or faint, high pitched tone in my ears. What is it that does that? Is it the rushing of blood to the head?
Now the weather has changed my small time dreams and ambitions change along with it. I care less about abandoning myself to wild and windswept places and start to focus more on work and my newly structured life the week after next. How will it be being a supply teacher? I expect or hope that I’ll enjoy the freedom and the variety of new places and people. What is that about? Always on the move. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever be able to settle. The idea of having a lover and a baby seems like a world away. I’ll also enjoy the loss of responsibility. Not having classes to worry about or their progress, predictions, up to date data, marked books, etc. This may also be something that I start to miss too. The want to do something worthy of my self respect. That’s an odd thing to think. And definitely ignore that right now. I think probably sleep should become my greatest goal in the foreseeable future: a golden era may lie ahead where night after night I will drag myself to my boudoir, head and eyes heavy, drooping, the effort of undressing almost too much, the very last thing I can manage before I slump exhausted, unmoving, breathing slowly in the silence.
The clock strikes one. Outside a car passes through the wetness of the night. The shadows of the trees stir in the wind while my lamplight falls weakly onto the lawn.