I struggled to get to sleep last night. Nothing too unusual there. My mind was on its knees, crawling in the gutter, looking for trouble. I tried to keep it busy with other thoughts, but all I got was a line of embarrassing memories queuing for my attention – recollections of school traumas; stupid ten-year-old conversations from when I worked in the factories; a surge of random, shameful, embarrassing actions from the last thirty years of my life. Squadrons of fighter jets blackened my skies. I shot some down with reason. Others flew around in loops. I should have poured another shot of whiskey, but I can’t rely on drugs and booze to send me to sleep. Not every night.
Those embarrassing memories swiftly turned to darker notions.
Crow, my OCD in stereo, tried to tell me that war with Iran or North Korea was inevitable. He told me we had a year left at the very most.
Would that be such a bad thing, Crow?
North Korea, huh? I remembered my time in South Korea, and a trip to the Demilitarised Zone and the Joint Security Area. At the JSA, a simple concrete strip was all there was of a demarcation line between North and South. We were able to cross it while inside one of the famous blue huts, a building where generals from both armies continue to meet, bickering and picking at each others’ ideologies under the looming threat of radioactive mushroom clouds.
We signed a disclaimer before we were allowed into bullet range – given strict orders of what we could and couldn’t do. No pointing at the North Korean guard in the big hat, no taking the piss, only very specific places to take photographs, and DO NOT cross that line outside of the big blue hut.
“Or you won’t be coming back,” said the American soldier in thick black sunglasses.
Back outside, and standing before the concrete line, Crow wanted me to leap across, run at the North Korean Guard the U.S soldiers had nicknamed Bob. I imagined being manhandled into the tall grey building opposite, angry North Korean soldiers pointing guns in my face. Crow turned his attention to Little One.
“Push her across,” he said and, in my mind, I shoved my girlfriend into North Korean territory. An image of Little One being escorted to a labour camp haunted my thoughts. In fact, the entire tour was interrupted by intrusive thoughts of how I could start an international incident.
“You could start World War Three!!” squawked Crow, snapping at my face. OCD had taken the potential for a good day and drowned it in a bath of uranium. Kim Jong-un would kill for that stuff, and does – allegedly…
An elbow nudged me gently in the ribs – I’d been making noises in my quest for sleep. Little One asked if I was OK.
I pushed the thoughts away. Turned onto my side and tried to think of the latest football results.
“What are the first signs of Cancer…?”
Fuck off, Crow.
“Who will be the next person to die that you love?”
I’m not playing this game.
“If it’s you, how will your family take the news?”
They’d cope. We’re all going to die, anyway.
“Who does Little One want to f**k in your bed?”
“You’ll soon be leaving East Sussex. Do you know how many people think you’re a waste of space in your hometown?”
They don’t know my situation.
“Doesn’t matter, all that matters is they think you’re a loser.”
I am a loser.
My home town festival was on last week. I’m still house-sitting but I could have gone home for the weekend. Unfortunately, my OCD has been working overtime lately, putting doubts into my head whenever I think of returning to Norfolk. But deep down do I really care what people think? He changed tack again…
“You could throw boiling coffee in Little One’s face.”
Or I could choose not too.
“Bad things are coming. Think of that blinding light and I’ll go away and let you sleep.”
I balled my fists and pictured a black space instead, but felt guilty that someone might die because of it. I flashed white across my mind. Miraculously, it worked first time and Crow flew off to watch me from his perch in Hell. I turned over with a sigh of relief, but couldn’t help thinking that with all my previous tossing and turning, I’d already lost the battle.
But I woke up this morning, which meant that I must have slept.
“Good morning, world,” I stretched and yawned. Could have done with an extra hour in bed, and that’s why I have a whiskey nightcap or smoke a joint in the garden before I turn in – it puts me to sleep before the Devil slips between the sheets.
As always, from the moment I woke, negative thoughts spilled into my mind, congregating like safari animals around a watering hole. I sat and watched the Springboks. They looked harmless enough, but Crow is the hunter in the silly hat, shooting beasts and dragging them back to camp for detailed dissection.
I toyed with rummaging through my old box of medication. I’ve kept it for a while. The meds are out of date but I was tempted to swallow some anyway. They lose power over time, so what’s the worst that could happen? They don’t work as they should? I only need a little bit of respite. On full med power, I can’t operate an electric toothbrush, and I don’t want to go there again. Daytime TV from the sofa – so many recipes, beauty tips and breakfast cereal commercials. Not a great way to go – drowning in a bathtub of uranium is much more rock ‘n roll!
Today, I decided against the out of date medication, although a full litre bottle of whiskey sits on the kitchen worktop.
Tonight, I’m going to sleep like a lion.