The bed has begun to breathe again. Rhythmically. In out, in out, it ripples in and out under my bum and back. I can hear it too, over and above the light breaths of the person by my side. Even though I’m alone, I’m not afraid, neither the bed nor the stranger are threatening, only there.
I lie with my eyes open, I think (I shall check in a moment) and watch the blinking red light on the ceiling. It swirls into the shadows and vibrates briefly in the corner of the dark bedroom before returning to the centre as I focus.
My eyes close, I think, and I wait to need the toilet again.
If I relax my grip on my thoughts and allow my subconscious to be the keeper of my night soul then anything can happen, unbidden thoughts will run riot. So I try to keep a measure of control, waking dreams.
A single daisy sandal sits atop the privet hedge by the gate of 56 Poplars avenue.
A few doors further down an elderly man stares incredulously at the bright red child’s sweater hanging from his guttering.
In the gutter by the pavement outside his garden is the child’s arm that once occupied it.
All down the street clothes and limbs litter the roadway, gardens and roofs as people emerge from their houses to stand aghast or sink to their knees and weep.
Poplars Avenue runs parallel to Canal Street, 3 roads down. Even so the terrific, terrible blast had dislodged roof slates and shattered windows. As they sat inside on a sunny Saturday afternoon the huge explosion had come as a complete surprise and most wandered outside in semi shock to confirm that they were indeed survivors.
The 6th of June, the day of the Ryland summer children’s fete There may be a war on but it will not dissuade the altruistic owner of Rylands from throwing the regular annual party for employee’s children and other less fortunate children of the borough.
There were games and sandwiches, fizzy pop and jelly and hats, and all of the children in their Sunday best.
Two days earlier the German pilot had dropped his half ton mine 2 miles further up Manchester Ship Canal. A waste in terms of his mission, it was intended for the harbour of Liverpool, to wait in the gloomy, turgid waters for a passing supply ship or perhaps an inbound troop ship from the USA. He may have been put off by the flack, or it may have been a mechanical failure, but he dropped it eventually on his return journey.
Canal’s do have slow currents, prompted by the opening and closing of locks downstream - and slowly but surely the mine made it’s way with the flow towards the centre of Warrington so far spared the worst of the blitz.
The mine made contact with the metal hull of a barge offloading at the pier of Rylands, only 50 yards from the seated children, and 20 yards from the finish line of the ongoing egg and spoon race, the egg and spoon race.
And 500 lbs of high explosive went about it’s ghastly business with ruthless efficiency.
Across the canal for 7 streets down people watched or found clothes and miniature human detritus flutter down out of a dumbfound smoke blacked sky.
I don’t want to but I glance at the clock. 4 am.
No worries, I may sleep yet.
But I shan’t so I try to take stock once again because even these black dreams are better than the bizarre offerings my other unconscious selves have to offer.
I think about the morning when I will get up and try to brush my teeth, and vomit because my gag reflex is accentuated. I don’t mind, oddly it settles my stomach for a little while, long enough to force down a little cereal, a few spoonfulls…..it’s just that I regret that my dental hygiene is going to pot.
It normally takes around 4 visits to the toilet in the morning before I feel confident enough to rush the dogs out of the house for our regular walk in the park.
Momentarily I am confused and try to concentrate, it suddenly seems important to remember whether yesterday was Christmas day, or is it today, and I eventually decide it is tomorrow. Why am I relieved? Because I have not missed it? I laugh to myself which disturbs the no one next to me who sits and gets out of the bed and leaves the room - and although I am not scared I hope I will not have to use the toilet for a little while after all.
I try to concentrate on the morning ritual, on the 8 pills I will take and the order I will take them in.
And listen to the music, to the back beat of my life, the rhythmic base playing in my pillow. At least this was an accomplishment and not another mystery. I had worked this out. At around 3 am the previous night I had become enraged that my neighbours were still playing reggae so loudly that I could hear/feel it in my pillow. Eventually plucking up the nerve and the need and had slipped into track suit bottoms and gone downstairs to complain. Only to find out that it stopped. 3 times I did this, with the same result. And 3 times when I got back into bed the beat remained in my pillow.
I lay there for a very long time before I understood that the beat was in my head. The beat of my heart, the pulse, the rushing of blood through the veins and arteries in my neck. I was hearing myself live.
If, only if, say, I give up on any notion of sleep (and why not, even though my eyes are full of grit I have not slept these previous 3 maybe 4 days or nights), I may get up briefly and call for the dogs. After all if it is Christmas day tomorrow we could wake up and greet the dawn together, it’s the only treat I have for them.
I close my eyes for a moment as the bed takes a deep breath, and I see a tiny white shirt floating down from the sky.