It’s late, way too late. It’s so late that I’ve just received a short email from my aunt who is drinking her morning cup of tea 6,000 kilometres away, in one of these soulless Parisian suburbs. “It’s cloudy and rainy,” she complains. I “bonjour” back while sipping my soup and we email back and forth for a few minutes as she gets ready for her long morning commute to the French capital.
I should be heading off to bed but I don’t.
I’m a stubborn idiot.
I finish my soup and eat my bowl of rice. I wrapped up my last assignment around midnight, took a shower, made my to-do list for the following day, set up my alarm and now I’m finally relaxing. Feng is a night owl too and he worked late as well, but he values his sleep so he went to bed to make sure he would get at least seven hours of snooze time. I can hear him breathing deeply. Mark is sleeping too.
I step out for a smoke. Even the rabbit who seems to enjoy our front lawn so much went to sleep. There is no traffic outside, it’s pitch dark but for the moon. It’s in a different place in the sky now, the only thing moving at this time of the night.
This is no a mild case of insomnia; this is me every night. I don’t want to go to bed—not yet, anyway. I’m not doing anything illegal or shady. I’m not gambling, cheating or drinking. I’m not even watching a pirated movie. I’m just sitting in our one comfortable IKEA chair, a blanket on my legs, browsing the web. For the first time in the day, I take a passive role. I enjoy stories other people wrote, look at meals other people cooked, admire pictures other people took. My attention span is limited so I focus on stories I bookmarked earlier in the day. My eyes are watering and if my hands were free, I’d rub them, but I’m holding my bowl of rice, cooked hours ago, warmed up in the microwave because I didn’t have time to eat dinner.
“Kids are so illogical and unreasonable,” I complained one night. “They are hungry but they don’t eat, they play with dirty stuff and they don’t want to go to sleep even though they are exhausted!”
As soon as I said it, I realised that kids could say the same about adults. We make up weird diets that make life complicated and occasionally make us miserable, we drink so much that we have to deal with unpleasant physical and emotional side effects the following day, we take stimulants to stay awake and we aren’t always playing nice with others.
I must have used a thousand of age-appropriate profanity-free versions of “go the fuck to sleep” with Mark but I’m as silly as him. I’m tired, yet I don’t go to bed.
I pay for it every morning but these late-night hours are precious to me. This is the only time of the day where I don’t have anything else to do afterwards but tucking myself into clean Tide-washed bedsheets. There is no task due afterwards, there is no rush, there is no one around I have to take care of. The world is on pause and I can catch up. It’s just me, the laptop and a dim light—I use the weakest light in the living room so that I don’t see the mess and the crumbs on the carpet. Cheap trick, I know.
In the late hours of the night—or rather, the early hours of the morning, I know I accomplished everything I had to for that day. I’m done, emphasis on “done”. I feel a sense of pride, of freedom, but only if I avoid thinking that in five or six hours, I will have to wake up, face another day, its routine chores as well as the unexpected ones.
I’m not the only night owl around, I know many of my friends sleep late as well for the same reasons—busy days, demanding schedules, never-ending to-do lists. Sometimes, our paths cross—a late email, an “online” status. We greet each other and giggle like schoolgirls skipping class: “I know, it’s late, eh!”
I close my eyes for a split second. Any longer and I’d be snoring—I already almost fell asleep when stretching on the floor thirty minutes ago.
I bite into a chocolate cookie.
“It’s not that late,” I rationalise. “Like, if we were to switch to winter time tonight, I’d get almost enough sleep.”
But of course, I can’t decide to turn the clocks back just because it would be convenient to me.
The digital numbers blink accusingly. I move the computer an inch or two to block the guilt-tripping made-in-China device.
Shit. I just wasted two minutes thinking about a stupid clock. Better read another clickbait article.
Now I’m the one blinking. Words. Sense. No make.
I sigh. Maybe it’s time to call it a night.
Tomorrow, I’ll definitely sleep earlier, I swear to myself.
Spoiler: I probably won’t.