I hear sounds in my head when I can’t sleep, sounds like the foghorns of ships lost in the gloom, ghost moans rising up from within, summoned like spectres from the deep recesses of my mind. The low funereal call of a ship’s horn far out at sea, it’s always been a comfort to me, like a calling from beyond the void, the assurance that life exists elsewhere, that it too is searching for another, for companionship, the reassurance of a life shared.
I’ve never been to sea, never stepped aboard a ship even, never felt its bows roll and fall beneath the majesty and pitch of the waves. But lying there in my bed, sweaty and tangled, like the knotted sheets within which I’m caught, sometimes when I can’t slip into that tiny clutch of death, I feel as if a great ocean is rolling beneath me, the bed the deck of a ship caught within a wake.
Fathomless peace. Endless depths.
But eventually, the noise from the city beyond my window always triumphs, trespassing ungracious and unwanted over the foghorns and half dreams, disturbing that dead space between conscious and unconsciousness, bludgeoning me awake with their cityscape sounds.
I hated listening to the city on those sleepless nights, nights all too frequent, brought on by the dawn tug of alcohol, the relentless nag of amphetamine or the niggling night witch of fear, fear for what I was doing in that place, in my job, my life, the very existence I was leading. I’ve heard it all from the bow of my bed, the growling squalor of the city below my window festering up from the pavements and cul-de-sacs, as if the sewers were overflowing into them with the worst of what mankind is capable of.
I’ve heard weeping and pleading, coarse and unkind laughter. I’ve sensed isolation and the pack mentality, the procedural order of the emergency services and the unhinged chaos of wild violence. Within the smother of car fumes and diesel, the reek of human sweat, sex, cooking fat and adrenaline creeping, the nightly cacophony of breaking bottles, shouts of rage and joy, the pitiful desperate repeated cry of the name of a loved one, over and over, pleading and lost, the ring of a siren, the red flash of hot savagery, the breaking of windows, the screech and smash of a car, the alarm of a house, the bark of a dog, the weeping of a victim, the dull thump of a helicopter overhead.
I’ve heard it all from the confines of my bed in the city.
But here in the country, as I lie listening in my mother’s home, there is barely a sound from out of the village. Just utter deathlessness, graveyard quiet save for the screech of a fox and then an owl in the deep slumbering dark, calling for its mate, calling for reassurance and reunion. Nothing but pitch and silence, burying secrets and unspoken revelations. Things people don’t wish to be discovered.