Having regularly suffered insomnia since my early 20s, I have particular relationships with certain times of night, some good and some bad, although gratefully none as extreme as Sarah Kane’s, 4.48 Psychosis.
Oddly enough, 2am is one of my favourite times… as far as insomnia hours goes, that is. I feel tender and confused about 2am. 2am hurts, but just a little bit less than 3.33am.
If I am still awake at 2am, I can sometimes delude myself that I am just out late, that the day coming will be passable, that I will be at least capable of coherent conversation. If, however, I wake early and it is only 2am, I can sometimes believe that I will return to sleep, that there will be no burnt-eye need for a nap in the coming day, which in turn leads to a brutal repetition of the sleeplessness of before.
Although I cannot quite explain why, I wanted to know if the experience of wakefulness at 2am would be different if it was somehow deliberate. Naturally, as someone who experiences so much sleeplessness, I try everything I can to get “a good night”. But would it necessarily be “a bad night”, if it was something I chose?
So, over the course of several nights in a row, I woke myself up with an alarm at 2am and tried to dictate a poem into the recording of my phone, the outcomes of which are here in this series. Sometimes I was dreaming, sometimes I had set a vague intent before I went to sleep, one night I actually forgot I had set the alarm and woke in the most ferocious distress.
Later, after the poems had been refined for coherence (some of the originals were quite incoherent), I woke myself again at 2am over the course of a week and I am surprised at way that the combined effect of bleariness, of darkness, of sleepiness, of nightmareness is in fact the kind of dream-uncanny-unsettled state of how I feel at that particular tender, confusing time.
I’m not sure if I’m ready to take on 3.33am just yet.
Collage above by Hannah Gartside.