Thursday, 13 January 2011

In honour of my recent insomnia...

Johnny was wired. He’d been awake for five days, couldn’t seem to switch off. He’d had pills and potions and powders, washed it all down with a little drink of vodka. Or two. This past day or so, everything seemed to have moved into a different dimension. It was all so vivid, like a kid’s drawing when the trees and the sun have been outlined in black to make them stand out. People seemed to come and go at odd times: he knew some of them. It was dark outside, but he wasn’t tired. If he could just switch his fucking brain off, he’d be fine, he knew. Think, Johnny, think. What makes you sleep? He smoked a joint he found in his shirt pocket, didn’t share it, no-one else around.

He pushed at his hair to get it out of his eyes. It hung in sweaty clumps around his face. His skin was covered in a greasy sheen. He sniffed, wrinkled his nose at the sour odour. Something smelled bad, and it seemed to be following him around. He looked under the chair, behind the sofa. He could smell it, but it was nowhere to be seen. Sleep. He needed sleep. He was going bugshit. He would have sold his soul for a good night’s sleep and a sweet dream.

Nicci could have helped him get to sleep. Nicci always soothed him. But Nicci’s gone. Faithless fucking witch.

Being driven. That used to work. He used to nod off in the van sometimes in the early days, when they were touring, lulled by the murmur of the engine and the rhythm of the road as they ate up the miles to the next town, the next gig. There was a sleek, black car on the drive. He knew it was his. You needed keys to drive it; he remembered that. There were keys in the house. Odds on one of them would fit the car. He jumped up and rummaged for keys. Found some! Magic!

He bounded outside, tried the car door. It was open, so that was a good start. He climbed in, sniffed, grimaced. Fucking stinky thing had sneaked in with him. Fuck it. He didn’t care, he had other things on his mind. Now for the keys. He tried his front door key: it didn’t fit. He put it back in the pile on the passenger seat and enjoyed a moment of relative clarity: ‘If I keep putting the keys back in the same place, I’ll just keep trying the same ones over and over’. He cracked the car door open. Next key he tried would have fitted the back door to the house, but not the car ignition. He dumped it onto the drive. He was smiling, now. He just had to try all the keys, one by one, until one fitted.

Eventually, a key did fit. As he slid it into the ignition, Johnny put his feet on the pedals. He remembered that there was one ‘go’ pedal and one ‘stop’. He reckoned he would only want to do one or the other,  not both together. Oh oh, he thought, too many feet. Then he remembered; the car was an automatic. He put his left foot on the rest at the side, which was handy, because now there was just one foot left to press the pedals with, and that was all he needed. Great stuff; he was ready to go just as soon as he started the car. The engine fired first time. So it should, he thought. It cost e-fucking-nough. Picture of a little horse on the front. He’d always liked that little horse. Johnny revved the tits off his motor. Nothing happened. It should be moving, he thought, I’m stamping on the ‘go’ pedal. Then he remembered: even though it’s automatic, you have to put the little stick in the right place before you can go anywhere.

Johnny moved the little stick, tried ‘drive’. That’s what he wanted to do, after all, drive the thing so it would rock him to sleep. He roared up the driveway, hanging onto the steering wheel and scattering gravel, waking up most of the occupants of his house as he went. He tore up the road, having fun negotiating all those little bends …. follow the white line, that’s the way. Stick to the middle of the road. Follow the line all the way to the village, race round the village green, then follow the line all the way home again. He just had to follow the white line, go where it led, and he would finally get some sleep.

A wee extract from an oldie. BTW, I don't advocate this kind of behaviour. Personally I settle for staring at the wall. Then the ceiling. Then the wall again. Then dropping off just before the alarm goes off to wake me.... hey ho! Sweet dreams! :)


  1. Midnight driving, hell of a lot more fun than Horlicks, eh?

  2. I'm getting old - I'd settle for the Horlicks! :)

  3. This was awsome, as usual. Is this an excerpt from the RocknRoll novel WIP, I read some of a while back. Tremendous job capturing the feeling of Johnny being up for five days, reminds me of parties back in the day and hearing the "line birds" chirping and the sun coming up, yet the party had to go on. Five days though..yikes!

  4. Well spotted, Sean - yes, it's from that same one - and thank you for the kind words. Sounds like we've had similar experiences, too. I've been known to pull the occasional all-nighter - but never more than that, and not for a long time!