I open my eyes, I am wide awake, it is dark. I look at the clock on my night table; its red numbers glow in the dark. 2:13 a.m. The house is quiet. Way too early, way too early. The words circle in my head. The night just started and it stretches in front of me as an enormous ocean of black emptiness.
I pull the blanket over my head.
I punch the pillows to make them fit just right.
I turn to my left side and tuck my arm under the pillows.
I turn to my right, close my eyes tightly, and try to wish sleep back.
I look at the clock again. 2:15 a.m.
I think of topics to write about. Plan my next novel, build scenarios, create characters.
I am a lone sailor in a tiny boat calling in the dark for the sleep fairy. She does not come.
Another look at the clock—two more minutes have gone by.
Time acquires a different quality. It is slow and elastic, soft, and elusive, all wrapped into one entity.
I listen to the silence and slowly noises drift into my head.
I hear the train that crosses the town every night. In our first year in this house, I was fascinated by it. It takes it close to ten minutes to go through town. I know because many times during the day I get stuck waiting for it to pass. A long freight train with an assortment of cars that do not seem to end. First, I hear the horn's warning and then, for a long time, the wheels click till they fade in the distance followed by one last horn call.
The furnace comes to life.
It is an older, almost fifty-year-old intricate conglomerate of rusty pipes in the basement right under my bed. Like an old person it wakes up, stretches each bone with loud groans, then a short pause followed by a deep shudder. Now the softer hissing sound of the water in the metal radiators. The heating system settles into a monotonous hum. I try to pretend that it is a lullaby. I tried this trick before, it never works.
Another five minutes go by.
In the silence the beating of my heart echoes in my ears like the old heating system below. It commands my restless body. My breathing sounds loud. In and out. It reminds me of the nights so many years ago when, in the middle of the night, I labored to hear my daughters breathe—first when they were young in the next room and later in their bedrooms down the hall. In those far away nights I would fall into my bed like a stone and rarely wake up.
In and out.
My breath is loud in my ears, the constant ticking of the clock seems louder with each passing moment, the night hours drag as the years race forward. Time is so elusive, so elastic.