Awake at 5am (4:58 to be precise), breakfast at 6am after lying in bed wondering if I am really awake, then examining myself for physical tiredness and realising my brain was doing its normal hello-day-chat. This internal monologue (which used to be a dialogue, but I’m lonelier now) alerts me to the fact of my being alert. You might say it’s a solipsistic reassurance, except that with my history of wavering sleep patterns it feels more like the enemy I know than a close friend.
I used to rise early through choice, and savour the times when I could remain in bed until the day was well advanced, but now it seems as if there can never be adequate reasons to remain horizontal. The luxuries of lying in, reading in bed, breakfast in bed, long mornings of chat and sensuality and sex are gone. The comfort of the day’s fatigue resting with the warmth of another close body is gone. Gone and not forgotten, though I force myself not to dwell upon the fact.
Recently I slept with a friend, and it was just that, sleep. My friend kindly accepted me to share her space and there was no question in my mind of its chaste nature. In a flat so small I had to leap a bicycle to get out of bed, we were a good boy and girl and there was no confusion. Both of us old friends single, both rather low, both lonely. How very British it was that we didn’t even offer one another the crumb of a hug, but instead, like repelling magnets, both kept securely to our side of the bed. It wasn’t that we found each other repulsive, but I sensed there was a tacit acknowledgement that a perfectly good friendship could so easily be ruined by intimate contact.
Later, I couldn’t help thinking that if we were from another, gentler, more generous culture, we’d have comforted and accomodated one another more confidently and with no confusion, without the fearscare of S E X (which wasn’t going to happen) stopping us even touching.
Cut to: one of the happiest times of my life. I was in a long-term relationship which was physically very satisfying, though it suffered from a certain lack of emotional compatibility that would eventually break us up. I was working abroad, and one of the team members, a sassy, confident girl, had the hots for me. I wasn’t looking for anything else, and was thus relaxed and friendly with everyone.
Oblivious to the elixir of hot sun and late nights, we grew close and within two weeks had relaxed enough with each other to fall asleep in the back of a car, hand in hand, head resting on sleep-deprived head, the scent of pine and suntan lotion and hormones drifting in and out of our dreams. It was so romantic. When I got home, I was full of love, of the perfect, unrequited kind. Within 48 hours, my girlfriend was distraught with the agony of jealousy, and demanded to know who it was.
I hadn’t even noticed that I was glowing like warm night coals with the appreciation of being appreciated, and in my naivety, couldn’t believe she had noticed the change in me, but there was no point in denying it. She on the other hand couldn’t believe we had not fucked each other senseless, as that’s what she would have done in my position. Her parents were not born in Britain, they originated in far sultrier climes, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and she had not the Methodist-Baptist mix which ran through the veins of my family, of repressed lust, delayed gratification and the sensible use of prophylactics. I always found this earthy acceptance of her desire deeply attractive, being so much the polar opposite of my own set up.
I did regret not acting, later, in cold London, and somewhat embarassed myself – but that’s another story. And yet, I did the right thing by not responding animally to her almost nude, cold, wet body as it landed upon my back, shocking me out of sunbathe slumber. Being in a better place enabled finer feelings to emerge and I was glad of it, because that was the catalyst, the key which fused sleeping chemicals and created the potential for much deeper experiences a few years later. It wasn’t sex I needed, it was this effortless connection to another soul. I had to go through loneliness to find it.
This is once again where I find myself, and why my sleep is erratic. It’s not the lack of sex, though that would help. When I share my bed, I share my life, and I find it difficult though not impossible to do otherwise. Years ago, I remember coming across some graffiti in a grotty pub bog which read, “Sex is easy to get – stand up comedy you have to work for” and thinking, God help me if that’s true. At least I can make people laugh.