For weeks now I have been struggling to sleep. Somehow I've managed to find a rhythm though. I no longer resist it, I seek to embrace it. Sounds of the streets outside wake me up, a loud scooter here, a car there. People coming back from a pub or club. I've always loved living in this city, this has been a part that I used to struggle with though. Things never truly sleep. When I'm working or just at home, reading or writing, that's great, I look outside and the city breathes, it lives. Bicycle lanes and roads are the lifeline of the city, pumping blood through it. At night though, I always resisted this notion at night. Peace and calm and sleep, a steady rhythm, how can a city, living and breathing simply decide not to just because I want to get some sleep. Ultimately it's this notion that I've come to embrace.
Now then, just after midnight on a Wednesday. I should be asleep, I'll have to work in 8 hours. An important meeting at 10, though really, is it that important? For the third time now in a week something woke me up and I can't fall back asleep. Though now I'm smiling, there's an overpass a short walk away from me. Something about it feels magical. Tonight too, I'll walk there and just watch the cars pass by. City lights illuminate my way. The steady rhythm of the lights ahead of me and behind me. The orange sodium lights everywhere paint a familiar picture. For as much as life has changed, these sodium lights provide a strange safety, a sense of comfort.
Arriving at the overpass, I watch the cars pass under me. The same dance the city lights played on me when walking, they now do so with the cars. It takes me back to my childhood. When we'd leave in the middle of the night, my parents didn't want to pay for a stay somewhere, so we just drove through the night. They would switch seats and for hours on end I'd watch these lights pass by. I'd watch endless kilometers of asphalt whizzing past. Wide and empty roads guiding us to our destination. As half the car would be asleep, there was no music, only muted conversation and little more than the sound of the engine and the tires rolling over the roads.
Each passing car, I only imagine I'd be there sitting in the back seat and tagging along for the drive. My mind's eye projecting the same grainy visuals as the pictures in the 80s my parents would take, documenting the holidays and on rare occasions the trip too. Sleep could not contend with the calm this road brought. However hard it would try though. Once I was here somewhat later, closer to 4 or 5 in the morning. It would be decidedly busier. A lengthy line of twin red lights to my right, a similar line of twin white lights to my left. The sun broke the magic though. It didn't feel the same at all.
Today was the first time I didn't find myself here alone. Another man came by. Similarly exhausted, too dark to see his face, his gait revealed it all, overcome by exhaustion, resistance to it all. "Fancy finding another soul out here." I nod and answer, "sleep is an elusive creature at times." A big sigh follows, "ah man, don't get me started on that. I just want to sleep, to catch myself again. A few more nights like this and I think I'll be going crazy." I acknowledged him with a short mumble, "what's keeping you up? And more importantly, why do you resist it?"
A short silence follows, we both watch the cars below racing by. "I guess I'm just worried. Worried about my job, about my future, worried that I won't have my moment to live anymore. And about why I resist, well, a person has got to sleep right. How couldn't I resist?" I smile but before I can answer, he goes on, "it's not funny you know. How am I going to be able to work tomorrow if I'm falling asleep throughout the day?" "I've never felt this good in years. One day I just went with it, I stopped resisting and just embraced it. I mean, did you know us humans used to have a two-sleep cycle?" "What? Are you delirious?" he replied.
"Maybe I am. Certainly it seems that way at times. But today, now, I feel good now. I'm calm, collected and I truly enjoy watching these cars pass by. I'm taken back to old memories and I look forward to new experiences. Sure, I might be delirious, but does that matter?" Then silence, we just watched the cars. Even with the cars passing, the fumes of the day drifted away and with every few minutes that passed, the air seemed fresher. Riled up by the conversation, it took me a while to regain my calm, my breathing went deeper. A feeling of satiation came over me. I let out a deep sigh, "look, here and now, I'm content, something I haven't been in ages."
He turned around and slided on the pavement, his gaze frozen on the night sky. "I used to have a purpose in life, I always felt there was a purpose anyway. I always felt this force pushing me forward, pushed with some intent. My life was vibrant, busy, a constant sense of pressure, something to keep me sharp. Suddenly now it's all gone, I feel like I just died." I slid down next to him, gazing at the night sky and given the light pollution here, the profound emptiness it provided, nothing but darkness.
"Most of my life I felt unguided and unclear, propelled only by what I did. I felt the need to move on, to continue, then as I got tired, everything stopped. Very recently though I accepted that this is okay. There's nobody out there with a plan or a purpose for me, I live my life by doing the things I enjoy. I do my best for work and when I can't, I simply don't. I refuse to continue living in fear or in doubt or in uncertainty. Tonight I just sit here enjoying your company, the memories these cars bring and the notion that in the profound emptiness, nobody ultimately cares for what I do, so I might as well feel liberated and do the things I want."