I realized I was awake in much the same way you realize you’ve already started your car after turning the key again. Though it’s only a minute or two, the sound of the engine running has already become a part of the background, so much so that it’s indistinguishable enough to not make you realize the car’s already running.
I blinked myself a little more awake, certain I’d been asleep for a few hours. I pulled the watch close to my face and pushed the button for the light. The blue glow doubly illuminated me, showing the tossed-back covers and also showing me my guess was wrong. Dead wrong.
A little over an hour was all. The rest of the night stretched out before me like a line of ants after some spilled jam. I felt strangely rested, like I could get up and start my day, but I knew if I tried it, I’d be down for the count long before I’d be able to throw in the towel. I knew I needed to go back to sleep.
But first there was some business I needed to attend to. I touched the lamp beside my bed to turn it on its lowest setting. The dim light was a perfect mix of lighting my way and not overdoing it, and I got up.
The bathroom light was harsh, like a first-grade teacher correcting her student’s ill-conceived attempts at making the other kids laugh. Harsher still, though, was the shirtless image of me grimacing back at myself from the mirror, a reminder that I wasn’t as young as I used to be, and an even grimmer reminder that we tend to be the sum of choices we make. I was a poster boy for what cake and ice cream can do to a man.
The sound of running water in the sink broke a silence that seemed have a melody to it, and once the tune was broken, the rhythm section of the neighbors who talk loudly outside their door became evident, as did the bass line of some faraway motorcycle. It was a tune I’d heard too many times before and I wanted to change the station.
I was in my office checking for messages when She came in the room, all legs and eyes. She wanted to know why I was awake. Dames. No explanation’s ever a good enough one for them. I picked her up but she protested and pushed me away. I let her go and she landed on all fours, like I knew she always would. She ran a quick tongue over her hair, the orange parts a perfect match for her fiery temper, and left the room.
Alone again, I considered my options. It didn’t take me long because I didn’t have that many. I knew sleep was all I had. This time, though, I’d try to get it right.