I always imagined that one day I’d become a great sleeper. Able to go to sleep at midnight and wake up nice and refreshed and regenerated after eight hours of the dreamless. That a good night’s sleep was the birthright of every human being and that it was just a matter of time before I or my body would get the hang of it, that for some reason I was just stuck in a difficult groove, the fact of this rough patch having lasted for sixty-five years and counting notwithstanding. I was convinced that any day now I’d be able to put away my book, turn off the reading lamp, hit the pillow and be out like a light like everybody else. Until I stopped imagining and realized that for me the nights are when life is at its most real, that it is daytime that gets in the way with all its from A to B and back again business and e-mails to be answered and to-do lists that grow longer rather than shorter, until I realized that for me nighttime is life at its purest, albeit often most terrifying. At night there is no escape, just me and the seconds, minutes, hours. Not that I am afraid of it; I have long since learned just to lie there and see what happens, something that now that I no longer have to get up early and go to work has become interesting in new ways.
Not unlike Patti Smith, with whom I would never attempt to compare myself in any way, I always imagined that one day I would do something wonderfully surprising, something that mattered, at least in a small way, at least to myself. Such imaginings always manifested themselves during the night with my mind going off at breakneck-speed, hyper alive with compositions and fragments and unfinished business. Back in the day when I was drawing and painting I’d get get all excited about these nocturnal ideas; I’d picture the finished work in living color and figure out how to execute it in minute detail, excitement not exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep. But that was when I was young and sharp, before the years of clubbing and nights on cocaine that must have killed off quite a few brain cells, back when I could hold onto an idea that had come to me or get up and sketch or write right then and there.
I still get many of my best ideas in the middle of the night but it has to be an exceptionally persistent specimen for me to take the trouble to grab my iPhone and record a voice memo for later use. Most of the time I shoo them away, don’t want to be bothered, let the ideas dissolve like a mist before dawn when I will perhaps vaguely remember that something had come to me that I thought I’d never forget.
Apart from getting so inconveniently creative at night I worry too, about worrisome current affairs, but also about things like how would I cope if I should get seriously ill. Or if I should get old, something that, for some reason, I still don’t think is going to happen. Not to me. At least not if I keep writing. Somehow I think I can write my way out of anything and everything. And in many ways I always have. I suppose it’s been my therapy of choice, from the time I was seven years old and started keeping a diary, or was I nine? Writing will fix it. Literally and figuratively. Once you write something born of personal urgency, or pour out your heart to a friend in a letter, or share an idea, you do pin it down, right? You’ve beaten that wild thing into submission. It leaves you alone. At least for a while. Oh, sweet illusion of control.
I always imagined myself in a top floor apartment or at least not a ground floor one like where I am now and have been for the past thirty years. A place flooded with light, with a small balcony with room for just two chairs and a little table, a parasol fixed to the rail. And okay, perhaps one plant. It’s where I, a city person, rightfully belong, away from the ground, looking down on treetops instead of up from under like I do here with that damn tree taking all the light. I imagine myself in a state of contentment, sitting on the balcony in the late afternoon, for naturally the apartment is situated on a South-West corner, sunny all day and well into the evening. Alone with my book and G&T or perhaps with a friend for company. Though honestly, up until four years ago, I always imagined that it would be with you. That now that we’d both no longer be working we’d finally be living together, have gotten a place where we could live out the years talking, sharing a bottle of wine, reading the paper, lounging quietly each with our book, except for me not able to refrain from reading out the good bits even though the expression on your face would clearly indicate that you did not exactly appreciate such unnecessary interruptions. Ever the gentleman, of course you’d bear with me. But it wasn’t to be, what with your current domicile being eternity.
I always imagined that at this stage of the game I’d have everything in order, gone through binders and boxes and pasted the truly important photos into albums, and even have some of the many digital ones printed out, for what is cozier than to sit on the couch with a photo album in the company of someone who cares to look through a life. That I’d have my papers and documents, including the digital ones, sorted out and put into a logical system of folders, discarding all the flotsam and jetsam that one collects along the way. And what’s more, I imagined that once I got it done, not only would it make me feel better about the state of my affairs should I get run over by a tram or the corona get me and the job of clearing my so-called estate be left to my only daughter. No, I imagined that apart from clearing some physical space and providing me with that Marie Kondo feeling of accomplishment, that, not unlike the deleting of files from a harddrive to make the old Mac last a little longer, it would give me more time, extend my life as it were,
April 9, 2020