© 2018 Francesca Millican-Slater

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Up All Night.

Last Tuesday night the 22nd of March into Wednesday 23rd of March morning, I stayed up all night on my own, without alcohol or stimulants, apart from tea. 

 

12.08 am. The night starts, for me, at midnight, 3 hours previously of watching TV and panic rising at the thought of staying up. It is the opposite of how I usually feel, the creeping worries of not being able to sleep, of convincing myself that I am tired, the anxiety heat rising. The hyper awareness of the man who lives above me , up all hours, stomping over floor boards, rolling giant balls for his giant cat, dragging bodies across the floor.  Big foot as I fondly call him. It helps. Sometimes the beats of his music vibrating down the walls. And I am too British to say anything. Instead I construct fantasies of banging on the door, of asking him what he is doing, that he has no regard for other people. That he is doing it to get at me. There goes the narcissism of the night. Instead I put ear plugs in and slam doors I don't usually close in a response paradigm of passive aggression. This video often helps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IRB0sxw-YU confirmation that I am not the only one being haunted by the floorboards. 

 

All of these fantasies and suppositions based on thoughts of what might be happening. That's why we tell stories. Or why I do, to make sense of things I can't see.  

 

I google 'Staying Up All Night': and find instruction blogs and lists on how to do it. Not for work, or for study but just to see that you can. The idea of the mania from lack of sleep a thing to achieve. Underneath the line, comments on how far awake in the night people got to, congratulating their sense of achievement interspersed with comments from those that cannot sleep, wishing they could. Insomniacs up checking sites on how not to sleep. 

 

There is an option to go to a site that connects you into messaging people (http://www.omegle.com) that you have never met across the world, like chat roulette without the live stream of masturbating men. Chat roulette (if this has bypassed you) connects you on your webcam at random to live streams of people on their webcams, you choose to connect or disconnect depending on your preference.  Or what they are doing. It was popular a couple of years back,  technology and connectivity moving on. Lots more sites available if there is something specific you are looking for.  Although looking at Omegle it has a video option. I save the link for later.   

 

And I am thinking whether this is such a good idea. It is my intention to have the radio on through the night. I try 5 live. They are doing a special about cars. As many people may be driving their cars this Easter Weekend. What sort of things should you check about your car. I last 5 minutes. Even as I write this I am tempted to switch it back on, for the company. 

 

Bigfoot, my upstairs neighbour is not doing his nightly wonderings, tonight of all times.

This time last night he was chasing his cat down the stairs that step above my head. A floorboard creaks that does not seem so loud with the lights on. I think about reloading Tinder. 

 

I plan to listen to local radio stations and perhaps do some sorting. Tidy out my knicker drawer. Knickers in the loosest sense of the word. It is mainly socks. Some of the websites indicate that the night time is the right time, to do some cleaning. There are clothes that I never wear. That I should donate. 

 

The streetlight came on about 6.30pm. And still I think. Is this really necessary? What I'm doing.  And that if I were attempting to sleep I wouldn't be able to. Floorboard creaks. 

 

And the last time I remember staying up all night without alcohol or good reason, was at a sleepover when I was 12, having to retire to the bathroom to have cry in the morning. When I got home my parents told me to go an tidy my room, which usually resulted in a rage and nap on on a pile of clothes on the floor. 

 

I might see what this anonymous chat thing looks like. And I think about Tinder.  Again. Although Tuesday night is not premium time for Tinder chat. In my experience. I wonder who might be on Facebook, or all the things that I could find out if I let myself look in the middle of the night. 

 

5 live back on. For a while.  

 

1.13am I am listening to LBC and responses to the Brussels Bombing. I think about the people up at night from grief. Or collapsed in sleep, needed brief oblivion, respite and forget, until the waking fools for a moment and then it is there again. The loss. And the people waiting for news. Fearful to sleep in case something is heard. Last moments, final breaths, or eyes opened. And the sounds of a hospital. And the cleaners in an office. Workers on the motorways. Security guards in buildings built for 1000's. And the Dr's up all night fuelled by adrenalin and underpay, making decisions while I decide to stay awake. For some sort of project. 

 

The radio shouts with men saying the same things again and again. That are always said when these things, these acts of homicide happen. Perhaps the dark is dulling my senses. Its a very specific time to have stayed awake and listen to talk radio in the aftermath of this. That there is ignoring of the bombs that happen all over, everywhere, that we focus on the bombing of this city. Could be any city in Europe seems. That we are numbed to killings that continue to happen over there. But too close, too familiar in landscape and scene and there we place ourselves. It's true, now as I hear descriptions of metros bombed and bloodstains, I return to what I know. I think about the quiet of the day after the London Bombings in 2005, where people smiled at each other in the support of travelling on the tube, and flinched at every backpack, where the top decks of buses remained sparse of people for two weeks after. Where new superstitions were made about risk of travelling on a Thursday. 

 

The radio rants on in fear and rage, the ongoing circle fuelling itself. 

 

I have almost talked myself out of staying awake. I am tired. And keep looking at my bed. I thought this would be easy, like walking a canal. I check the time of sunrise. 5.30am. I think about arranging my knicker drawer. That I think I can get to that... 5.30am.  With the light on, the blinds open, the streetlight streaming in, it could be anytime after dark. 10pm, 11pm 1.30am.

 

I re-loaded Tinder. Swipe. Swipe. Yes. Yes. No. No. Match. 

 

Message from a match: 'Late night tinder?' 

 

I tell him I'm doing research

 

He tells me he is gutted as he has just told a date he didn't want to sleep with her. 

 

But he did. Want to sleep with her. 

 

I ask if he actually said used those words, because that is hard to come back from. 

 

I have also eaten some toast. 

 

And feel entertained. 

 

Time goes on and I have already started checking my phone for a response to my witty (try hard) message to a man who is probably pissed up. I tell him I am Tindering (that will reach the dictionary soon) for anthropological reasons. 

 

I think about the Firebird children's book and about the young prince rubbing sand in his eyes to stay awake waiting for The Firebird to come.  

 

I have a friend in common with this man. Technology closes in on our circles. I should be careful. 

 

He tells me its too late to think about how Tinder has changed how we communicate. And off he goes to bed. I thank him for being a perfect subject. We both prove my point. 

 

I am bored. It is unlike me to get bored, I usually entertain myself in my head even if it's just in my own head. 

 

1.45am I have woken up, footsteps upstairs, but no buses outside. The traffic has calmed down. I am getting a perverse pleasure from hearing Big Foot upstairs. Hoping that I am keeping him awake with LBC coming up through his floorboards. 

  

2am: I listen to 5 live interview a man that was wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of a woman, spending most of his adult life in solitary confinement on death row. It is harrowing. I rearrange my knicker and sock drawer. 

 

I have a lot of mis matching socks. And tights, I have inordinate amount of black tights. And coloured tights. All different kinds of tights and while I told myself I was going to be ruthless about it, I still have kept most of them. Even the ones I know whose loss of elastic leads to saggy crotches.  

 

And I think I should be writing all of this live. Live blogging, live tweeting, but I'm writing it in a document, sometimes handwritten on paper.

 

And now just before 3am, I am still tidying my room, I am ruthless with my socks. I find a train ticket from 2006 at the bottom of the drawer.

 

And I am enjoying the aloneness. Some of the silence as I turn off the radio. I need those voices to stop. The world service was talking about the making of viagra. I can hear my eyelids opening and shutting. I thought that only happened when I was hungover. 

 

It is a tiredness that I get of an afternoon. Every single part of me wants to get into bed and sleep. The bodily want to just lie down.

 

3.20am it doesn't feel like the night anymore, it feels as if it is acceptable. I cannot remember the last time I saw 3am sober. The light on, left on, feels different from switching it on when being awoken from sleep, when wanting to sleep but not being able to. These are the darkest hours, I think, physically of the night. It doesn't have the magic, the sulphur of the night lights, the aloneness that occurs when turning between sheets trying to find sleep. I'm trying to run it away. 

 

I do not have any cheese in the flat. I would really like some cheese. I construct a fantasy about finding one last individually wrapped cheese hiding in the bottom of my salad drawer. They were there once, those individually wrapped cheeses but I know I finished them..but just in case. Just in case. 

 

Somnolent I walk into the kitchen, time for tea, and search in the salad drawer, just for a moment, just in case, and underneath a sheathed and pulping cucumber, I find. That individually wrapped piece of cheese, as I had fantasised. I think I might have made it happen. 

 

Make some tea and more toast, sit and listen to conspiracy radio. It buzzes in the background, I don't really listen.

 

I try omeliga this set up for a talking to a stranger. 3.58 and the birds start singing.

 

You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi! 

 

Stranger: hey

 

You: Hi, how are you?

 

Stranger: fine. 

 

Stranger: n u

 

You: I'm doing alright, up later, what time is it where you are?

 

Stranger is typing...

 

It starts to feel strange. Untoward, you do not know their age, gender, where they are unless they choose to tell you. You can disconnect with no apology when the conversation is not to your liking. What do you ask someone that is just words on a screen? I think I am talking to a 14 year boy in Colorado, I don't know this, apart from the Colorado bit which he/she/they have volunteered. Its making me feel old. And not just because of the lack of grammar and text speak. And although I am only explaining what I'm doing, staying up all night, I feel predatory. 

 

Disconnect. 

 

Upstairs he has definitely started watching TV or something. Noises down the walls.  

 

4am is witching hour for me. When I usually wake up from wine or rumbles upsatirs and stumble to the bathroom hoping that the light, the natural doesn't come yet. Now I'm wishing for it so I can sleep. I've made a deal with myself to sleep only when the dawn breaks. 

 

LBC or tiredness is causing a bile to rise in my throat. Brussels and bombings, killings and religion are still the topic of choice. In a describing a woman that gunned down people at works event 'AND There was this woman, Ugliest I've ever seen'. It seems even in discussing acts of violence we cannot avoid displeasure at the aesthetics of a woman's face. Perhaps, I've heard it wrong and it was a reference to the act she made. 

 

Silence for a while. Click off, and I think of others awake and up, friends I know, witching hour for them, blue screen news, up in pain or babe in arms and hunger. Others I know, never waking from their deep slumber. 

 

4.38am Voices booming down from up above. TV still. I feel awake but, shakey out of sorts. Eyes are tired. Heavy and I am waiting to see the Sun. 

 

I have been intermittently checking people awake on chat on Facebook. People that I never speak to now, people that I wish I still did, old crushes I harbour regrets for, little weight in the heart in the happiness of him marrying a women I never met. I've known him longer whispers the voice of unreason and the night. Despite never actually having had any tangible romantic entanglement to hold on to. Or having seen him, physically for the last four years. 

 

People who I am not surprised are up, or coming home in cider and smoke light. 

 

Looking out the window on to my street. A light on in a downstairs window down the way, flashes of the pictures of the TV. 

 

I've realised I've missed the real dark. The night. Spent that part lining up my socks in to matching pairs and throwing away ones with holes and no partners. Fancy knickers moved to another drawer. That is pleasing at least. 

 

A brief chat with a stranger on Omeligia in India, who is friendly and chatty, asking about what I do and if I like cricket. They call me, 'my friend'. Disconnect. 

 

4.47am A cyclist up the hill. 

 

4.49am A jogger in a hat. 

 

4.54am First bus. Not in service, but making it's way to be. 

 

I read, I want quiet. Last hour. World waking outside. 

 

5am I put my computer away, write notes only in hand. It is not LBC, or 5 live that has made me feel sick, but lack of sleep. I think. Everything takes on a slight dreamlike quality that I thought happened through the sheen of a night on the piss. 

 

My reactions are slower, my thought process slower...unable to find words. And I wonder at those that have to stay awake for work, and keep working as their body tells them other things.  That I could have done something more useful. Like write the show. 

 

5.38am The sky is turning to light blue. I leave a blind up and lie down into bed. 

 

 

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