By Tamara Hunter
Nights weren’t supposed to be like this. They were supposed to be soothing and sweet, a relaxing into the softness of the bed and a drifting off into dreams. She could almost remember a time when they had been so, but these days she was so sleep deprived she could barely remember yesterday.
Sometimes it was money, the worry of it suffocating her with fear. Sometimes it was a thing she’d forgotten to do – an obligation unmet or a deadline looming. A form unsigned. A letter unsent or a call unmade. At other times it was guilt over harsh words directed at children – her temper lost. Again. Then, she was consumed with the anxious and irrational suspicion that time was running out to mend the breaches of the past. Was it too late? Was there enough love to balance the times she didn’t get it right?
Little bombs, going off in the night: Mother guilt. Daughter guilt. Partner guilt. Shame. Someone told her once she’d make a good Catholic. All that guilt and shame. She was ripe for it.
The guilt, anxiety or fear – whichever form the sleep destructors chose to morph into on any given evening – were relentless. They would seek her out and find her hiding under the pillow, eyes screwed tight against their arrival. Merciless fingers prying at her lids, they would wrench open her eyes and send her heart skittering across her chest until it settled into a pounding rhythm which must surely shake the bed.
Daytime delivered bruised eyes – creases and circles later covered with makeup which managed to hide the fear. She slid through mud into the day, coffee at her elbow and an ‘it’ll be okay’ smile on her dial. Ploughing through the hours, she went nuts at the gym, walked the dog, chased the kids. Good food, minimal wine. Yoga poses to relax, flower essences to chill, and a candle lit with prayer. All of them, a treaty – drafted, signed and waved in the air.
But when night came around again, she’d climb back into bed and know it all meant nothing. Demons didn’t respect treaties. They tore them up and danced on the shreds, leaning into eyes and hearts and laughing with glee.
Head on her pillow, heart in her mouth. Lights out, and she dug in for the siege.