I woke up feeling normal this morning. I thought: I feel normal. I did some writing, started a new chapter, which I’ve been too tired to even approach lately. The chapter preceding this ended with great agitation, pain and confusion, which is supposed to propel this chapter, or so I thought. When I read what I’d written this morning, I saw that the boy (my 11 yr-old protagonist) is actually calm, and the peace and new maturity radiating off him is going to drive this chapter. Then I stood up and went to the bathroom, looked in the mirror for a while, and I saw myself (not my reflection) looking back, and I thought: oh, hello in there, I’m extremely calm, I can tell, I haven’t been this calm in so long. This is my most treasured state. To test it, I went and stood on the balcony, looking at the mist and trees. I felt the strong slow thud of my heart, and thought: yes, wow, I am extremely calm. I wonder if I felt calm before I started writing, and that’s why the mood of my writing is like that, or if writing this scene made me feel this way, because I was sure I felt normal before.
I’m so calm that I will share what I wrote this morning, in its draft state, which—as you’ll know if you know my writing—is radically different to how it will eventually look. And if you know me, you’ll know I’ve never in my life shared even a draft paragraph with anyone. (I promise I won’t edit it).
He gets into bed. His mind is roaring with light and noise; Rollo’s sobs have stuck to him; his chest is filled with fishing sinkers, and he is sinking into his mattress, but not under water; he is still here, still awake. Inside his mind, it’s bright daylight. His ears are trained on the sound of his own voice straining to say things to his grandfather, who is not able to hear him at first, but now his grandfather is listening, understanding him perfectly; even so, he is repeating himself so he can hold onto the words because he is making sense, surprising himself with clear thoughts that were always there. He opens his eyes. The room is dark, or his eyes were already open, or perhaps his eyes were open and now they are closed.
Night creaks by. He is talking to his grandfather in a calm voice, like his dad’s voice. Now he is listening to his dad’s voice. Behind the sound of his voice and his dad’s voice speaking to his grandfather he feels a thin excitement: he should be asleep, everybody else is asleep, but he is awake, talking in his head. He opens his eyes. The room is not properly dark anymore, or perhaps his eyes have adjusted. He is still awake. He alone is awake. He will go and sit with the dogs. He gets up, dresses in the dark, and tiptoes down the passage to the kitchen. The dogs are sleeping on the stone floor near the stove, though the fire inside has burnt out. Lying on their sides, their smooth moving bellies are exposed. As he steps around the dogs, reaching for the box of matches on the counter, he pictures himself accidentally stepping on the soft edge of the nearest dog’s underside, where the sparsely haired softness joins the coarser, hairier inner hind leg: imagining the sharp pinch of his sole on the dog’s pliant skin makes his breath catch for a moment. He is careful not to step on the dogs. He strikes a match and lights the hob first time: a hiss, an almost liquid red flame. The smell of gas makes the dogs stir. They look up at him with uncertain eyes. With his mind he tells them: I have not slept, dogs, I’m still the same person I was yesterday, and he can hear that his voice in his head has not lost its grownup quality. He makes tea for himself doing what Kiphane does but decides against milk because the milk-boy hasn’t come yet and he doesn’t want to go around the corner into the darker scullery where the fridge is. He takes his cup to the table, already set for breakfast, and picks up a teaspoon to stir—the pure tinkling sound makes his eyes see the silver trickles of condensation on the dark window panes. He opens the kitchen door to the night’s chilly mist, and sits on the cold step. The cold air moves in through the doorway, and the warm dogs brush past his shoulders on their way out. They stand around on the paving, waiting for him, saying: we’re up because you’re up, so now what? he answers: go entertain yourselves. He lets his eyes be absorbed by the grainy dark. His tea is less sweet than the tea Kiphane makes, and it tastes like boiled bark without milk, but it’s still nice. If he gets hungry, he’ll make toast. He could make anything.
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