Tuesday, June 03, 2008


It's late, maybe 11pm, maybe 12. My parents are still awake, and every so often I hear one of them creak upstairs to go to the bathroom. They are watching television, my brother fast asleep in his room, the cat curled up in her basket, and for all I know the whole of the rest of the world is asleep as well.

I'm not.

I'm tired but I can't sleep. It's always been like this. I always beg to stay up a bit later, or to have a half hour of reading time in bed, and when it's time for lights out I sneak the light on anyway and read some more and if I hear footsteps on the stairs I click it off fast and pretend to be asleep so I don't get in trouble.

"Turn that light off and get to sleep!"

If only it was that easy.

It's late, and I have school in the morning. I never want to get up, which isn't surprising. At weekends I sleep in until 10 when Mum wakes me up, and I spend most of the day in my pyjamas reading or watching TV with my brother - at 5 he's 5½ years younger than me so we watch kid's TV but I don't mind. On Saturday nights Dad goes to the pub and Mum usually takes us to Pizza Hut, then my brother goes to bed and I watch TV with Mum, or we play board games until Dad comes home. Sunday is roast Sunday dinner where I'm forced to eat peas and baking a fruit cake and visiting family and watching
The Simpsons and egg sandwiches and pork pie and fruit salad for tea.

But tonight is Tuesday, so school tomorrow. Mum and Dad have gone to bed now. And I'm still awake. I've already been told off for reading tonight, so I don't put the light on again. Instead I lean into the window behind my bed, pulling the curtain over my head and down my back. The orange light from the streetlamps is just enough for me to make out the print of my book, so I can read at least. I have a vast collection of Enid Blyton books and I've read this one,
Six Cousins Again, over and over again. It's not that I like it particularly, it's just habit. This is the book I read in the window. When I finish it, I'll start it again.

Eventually my eyes start to hurt, because arc-sodium isn't ideal for reading. I glance out into the street. It's raining steadily, tapping on the windows, water running in dirty orange rivers down the gutters.

We live on the end of a small quiet street which joins to a busy main road. I can see the main road from my window. In the daytime I'm allowed to cross it by myself because I'm sensible, but Mum prefers me to walk down the road to use the crossing. Right now it's quieter but there are still cars passing - at night the cars drive themselves, sending a plume of roadwater out behind them, headlights bouncing off the drops of rain. Inside is dark and empty.

It's cold, and I pull the quilt around myself under the curtain and wrap myself up to the chin. I should feel safe. I had to wipe the fog of condensation off the window with my hand and it feels cold and damp so I tuck the hand into my pyjama top and try to warm it on my stomach, but all that happens is that both places get cold. The smell of cold damp window is like no other smell. The clear patch will mist up again as I breathe, but now drops of water run down to meet each other at the bottom and pool on the sill. If I'm careful I can draw a track with my finger and the drops will follow my path. I write my name - backwards so you can read it from outside - but within a few minutes it is obscured by the rivulets, scribbled out and unreadable. I draw a rabbit, a horse, a flower. All disappear.

It's still orange outside. Still raining. Still late. A bus trundles past, lit up inside like an dirty old aquarium, but instead of fish and plants and rocks there's just a few people sitting wrapped up in coats and scarves, not moving. How are there people still awake? A second and the bus is gone, and I have the sudden grisly thought that the passengers could have been dead. At least, they didn't look alive.

Or maybe they were asleep. Because I'm surely the only person awake.

And I've never felt as alone as I do right now.


  1. Anna, I'm intrigued. I enjoyed reading that piece very much. Tell me more. Is it an extract from your diary from years ago, or am I completely barking up the wrong tree?

  2. That was marvelous, you should be writing a book. Would love to read more of your writings.

  3. That's a very evocative piece of writing Anna; I was fascinated reading it.

  4. Brill.

    I love the way you're lead off into this person's weekly diary of events without realising you're leaving the scene. And then how it's surprising when you snap back to 'tonight'.

    I also like the tone of the prose. I'm a 'reading-in-my-head-like-I'm-reading-aloud' type (there's probably a real name for that), and I was reading it as a whisper.

  5. Thank you everyone!

    Just so you know, it's basically a real memory of mine, with a few background bits thrown in.

    It's just something that sticks with me. We had maybe four straight days of rain just before I wrote it and that night I was feeling pretty bad - not properly depressed but getting there. I tried to explain the memory to Michael because I'd been thinking about it a lot, but I don't think I really conveyed it how it is in my head.

    It works better here.

    And the day after the sun came out and I could go outside and I felt much happier. Apparently I'm much more photosensitive than I realised.

    Thinking about it now, the time I was writing about is the first time I can remember being what I now call pre-depressed.