I move around a fair bit. It gets me in trouble sometimes: ‘You’re never here.’ It doesn’t really feel like I can help it. Once or twice I have tried to stay put and inertia silted up my gills, making breathing difficult. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve woken up gasping, not knowing where I am.
There was the time last summer when I’d stranded myself in east London, before I lived round that way. I’d organised this thing and forgotten to arrange anywhere to stay over at after the thing ended. Anxious phone calls to a friend led to me following a blue dot in circles around a google map to a flat somewhere where a stranger lived, a nice stranger who offered me a drink and gave me a bed to sleep in overnight. The bed was one of those that’s high up in the ceiling with space for a desk underneath, except in this room there was no desk underneath. I’ll admit right now I’d drunk a few gulps of free whiskey that night so it was an effort, both slightly comedic and shakily dangerous, to climb into the bunk. The next morning I woke up gasping. My heart beat almost broke a rib. I knew I was alone in the room and I knew that I wasn’t in any danger but I couldn’t remember where I was. I know this makes me sound feckless; it’s not that bad, I knew that I wouldn’t have stayed somewhere dodgy. I had to say out loud, ‘Where am I?’ and I had to peer out of the top of the window next to the bed. Even with these memory jolting measures it still took a handful of long minutes before I remembered where I was.
I think it was a few weeks ago I made a new friend in a friend of a friend. By the time we’d had a few of his beers and talked and bickered a bit in his kitchen, the temperature had plummeted outdoors. I only live maybe twenty minutes from his house; anyway I didn’t fancy the walk in that cold. I could’ve worn one of his jumpers home but he’d already lent his thick jumper to our mutual friend some days or weeks before. So the long and short of it is that I ended up staying at his until daylight warmed things up. I woke up with a Big Gasp but, remembering quite quickly this time where I was and embarrassed to have possibly woken the other person in the room with my Big Gasp, I ended up giggling myself back to a more restful napping. Feeling less dramatic than the night before, I got up after the nap and walked the short distance back home under cheerful blue north London sky.
The other day I woke up in a room in Birmingham, my head between the legs of a rocking chair. I gasped, but without even looking out from the opening of my sleeping bag I could tell that my friends were sleeping in the same room. The remembrance of where I was came back into view. Later on when two of my friends went out I got in their bed, so that day I woke up twice in unfamiliar places. Look at the picture. No one would worry waking up in such a beautiful room.
In the past weekend I’ve woken in three different beds, the last of which was my own. I woke up feeling the familiar confusion, the not knowing where I am muscle spasm, before I remembered. My books and my reading light and my desk and the paperchains along my wall came into morning focus. I remember saying, ‘Oh yes, yes. It’s you, oh good,’ I fell back asleep, patting my pillow in the way you pat an old companion’s back when it’s been a while.
I guess it’s a bit like when you want to say something but you don’t know how to say it, and then you manage to say it or you start writing and eventually the something unravels itself. Or when you have so much to do that it’s all nagging at the back of your mind and you don’t know where you’re going to begin or how you’ll manage it all, and contrasted to that how it feels when a chink of maybe enters your reasoning and you begin to see a way out. It’s a bit like that, tugging on a string that leads you back to knowing where you are.
… oh pants – I’ve just remembered that it’s dead cheesy to write about waking up. Too late now. Sorry, I’m sorry.