The seconds tick past. Propped up against a pillow that must be filled with feathers and rocks I watch the hands of the carriage clock spin backwards in the mirror, willing my eyes to feel heavy, waiting for the world to drop away.
But it doesn’t. I’m still here in my bedroom, alone with the darkness, with myself, with the endless tick of the clock, tirelessly counting away the seconds I have left to sleep. If I can drop off in the next fifteen minutes, I’ll still be able to get nearly three hours in before the alarm rings.
Those fifteen minutes pass and I’m still here. My brain is now playing all my humiliations, my defeats, my petty cruelties and my endless regrets on a loop in the dark.
I remember John and I at our parents’ when we were boys; the way the apple tree branches would tap against the window of our shared room, like witches’ fingers reaching for us through the glass. How that same room could feel like a ship when storms raged outside. How, no matter how bad things were, we’d always had each other.
As I begin to drift away to those memories of happier times I feel myself reach for John’s hand and find it clutching only the cold sheet of my bed. Of course, John has been dead for years now and I am the only one who remembers that little room in the sea.
Orange light flares down from the streetlamp outside my window. The world is as still and cold and empty outside as it is in my own blank little room with its ridiculous carriage clock and uncomfortable pillows.
I try to think of what John and I would do. We’d tell each other stories, pretend we were on a boat, so the gentle rocking would lull us to sleep, or imagine that we were camping out on an adventure in the snowy mountains. But John was always better at conjuring those images than me. Without him, they are insubstantial and my bed remains a bed, hard springs digging into the soft flesh of my bum.
I shift slightly and the resulting creak sounds jarringly loud in the silence.
I try to recall the last time I saw John. He had been smiling and joking, pleased to see me as always, pleased to be playing his big brother role. We’d been at his place, his enormous garden, his beautiful kitchen.
I remember the way his face changed when he realised what was happening. When he’d first discovered that he could no longer prise my fingers from his throat, as he could when we were children. The realisation that this time was for real. The feeling of soft, hot flesh under my thumbs.
I remembered the panic, his, then the silence afterwards and then that awful gap where remorse or guilt or triumph was supposed to flood my brain, but there was just that terrible blank nothing after all.
Back in the darkness of my room, the hands of the clock tick the morning ever closer.