The cats circled us like vultures, craving affection even if it were fleeting. We stroked them absentmindedly, the comfortable silence enveloping us in a warm summer’s glow, even though it was a mere seven degrees that late evening. From the bench which was slowly growing green in the damp nights of Spring 2004, we would look across the garden towards the large oak tree which stood tall and still, its limbs creaking softly in the calm. Our eyes would flicker occasionally to the few stars we could see strewn across the sky. It was a major fault of urban cities that, despite the horrid corruption which littered the towns as surely as dried chewing gum on the pavement, we were unable to placate this atmosphere by looking to thousands of stars. How strange that there is such peace in looking at objects which may already be dead, but it can so easily level one’s spirits.
The dog barked at the bottom of the garden. No doubt she was warding off foxes for us: though small in body, her personality was large enough to scare even the wildest of animals from their prowling and lurking. She became lost to the undergrowth so that all we could see of her was a patch of white in the growing darkness. But we trusted that she wouldn’t stray too far.
Sipping sporadically from coffee mugs perched on the table in front of us and reading occasionally from dramatic novels, to any nosy neighbour we would look like two insomniacs riding a constant wave of fatigue but never able to actually fall asleep. Little did they know that we were waiting for something. And we would not sleep until we had completed our nightly ritual. It was no coincidence that we stayed up so late: me, a young girl nearing my teens and she, a mother very fond of sleep. We were awaiting the seemingly magic time when all clocks appeared to naturally reset themselves; when a fresh start was allowed and new horizons reached. It had become like a religion: we would wait for this fleeting moment and celebrate it with fresh coffees and toast slathered in butter and sugar, just as devout Christians eat lavish helpings of turkey to celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day.
We whiled away the time by speaking of mundane events which would be forgotten the next day but added to the happiness of the evening. Friends; piano; work; school; animals. Our voices were lowered to a whisper so as not to wake any light sleepers in our vicinity. They were the moments I enjoyed the most during half term: the cool serenity of a Spring evening could sometimes be as magical as watching a sunrise edge across the horizon. The smell of damp air and sound of purring cats was almost all encompassing. A few hours would pass in this manner until midnight struck and we could dig into our freshly made snacks. And as quietly as we had arrived on that bench in our thin socks, so too did we depart just as softly, leaving only a couple of traces of our being there behind: some toast crumbs and flattened grass etched to the shape of our soles.
I suppose you could call us a couple of insomniacs. It seemed that without that small amount of alchemy to end the day on, we were sleepless husks filled with unfulfilled dreams.