Sirens in the night

                 I can hear the whaling and the beeping of sirens and horns as I lay in bed. My blanket pulled up to and tucked under my chin as I let the warmth wash over me. I had been staring at the ceiling for some time but now my eyes are closed and I am listening to the fan spin. All the noises that fill my small room have become like an orchestra to me. I have seldom heard them. Tired from the day or maybe too distracted with my phone to notice, I had not heard it all before. I could hear them all plainly now. The wind howling as it rustles the leaves in the trees, my downstairs neighbors laughing on their balcony at midnight on a Sunday. All of it reaches my ears now. Then in the distance the sirens howl again.

                “Where are they going?” I thought.

I couldn’t know nor did I want to. I just wanted to be there in my warm bed with my gentle fan and warm blanket. I could feel myself slowly start to drift off to sleep but I resisted.

“If I fall asleep to soon then the day will start all the sooner.”

I didn’t want the day to come. If it did I would have to get ready for the day and go to the office, sit at my desk and wait for the day to be done with me. I hated it all the more. I could already sense my stomach tightening. That damned cubicle tightened my gut every time I thought of it.

                ‘The bills have to be paid.”

That’s what dad always told me as he laced up his work boots each morning. I thought of him panting for breath as he sat bent over in his bed putting him on. I wasn’t allowed in his room but one morning I remember waking up early one morning and peeking through his cracked bedroom door as he got dressed. I always remember him breathing hard when he had to put his boots on. Like it was such an effort that it took all the breath from his lungs. He saw me and instead of telling me to go back to bed he called me over.

                “Come sit with me,” he said.

Nervously I came in and set on the floor at his feet.

                “What are you doing daddy?’ I asked.

                “I’m getting ready to go to work,” he said between breaths.

                “Is it fun?” I asked.

My father stood up and took a few deep breaths to catch his breath and buttoned up his shirt.

                “Gotta pay the bills son, come on I’ll tuck you back in.”

I was back in my bed now and thinking about how true his words are now. Life isn’t cheap and the bills have to be paid just like he said. I would always wonder how long I could go without working. Maybe a couple of weeks, maybe a month or maybe even two. I wandered how long it would be before I had to start worrying about paying the bills again. I thought about going to town at two o’clock on a Wednesday when everyone was work. I wanted to sit in the most popular restaurant when no one was there and not have to wait. Most of all I wanted to go to those places that are always so busy and full and see it without people. I tried to imagine how beautiful it must all be without anyone there to ruin it with their loud talk and need to be where I want to be. My mind kept me wandering about it all.  I rolled over on my side and saw my alarm clock staring at me. The bright red numbers flashed 11:47 PM.

“Six hours and thirteen minutes until I have to get up.”

I closed my eyes and tried to unclench my jaw as I sighed and rubbed my eyes. My mind kept me wandering about it all. The bath didn’t help, the wine didn’t help, and the three mile run didn’t help either. I was still awake. My thoughts were still flowing in all directions and the sirens came whirling and buzzing back. They were closer this time but still on some distant street miles away.  The street lights filtered through my shades and danced on my bedroom ceiling dimly and yet still bright enough so I could make out the fire alarm and vent above me. I started to sweat and kicked a leg outside my covers as I closed my eyes again and pulled my arms outside the covers I was so warm in moments ago. Now I could feel my bladder starting to swell and began the internal debate of whether or not to get up and pee. I always thought I could pass out for a bit and wake up in the morning to go. I just wanted to keep lying there but after a while longer I couldn’t ignore natures call. I flung off the blanket and rolled out of bed. I opened the bathroom door and flicked on the light as I stumbled to the toilet. Finally relieved I washed my hands, turned off the light and closed the door with a thud. I hopped back into bed and was able to roll up in the now cool blankets as I pulled them back up to my chin. I turned my head to my alarm clock with the shining red numbers. 11:58 PM it read this time.

“Six hours and two minutes until I have to get up.”

My legs had become restless and I was kicking in every direction trying to get comfortable. Nothing seemed to feel right as I tossed and turned. Again I was on my side staring at those damned red numbers that stared back at me. 12:07 AM

                “Five hours and fifty three minutes until I have to get up.”

Rolling on to my back again I felt pressure building in my lower back as it ached. I twisted my legs to the side as I kept my body straight and put pressure on my hips until finally my spine cracked and popped. I felt the pressure release and gave a sigh of relief as I did the same to my neck until it to gave way and popped. The temperature in my room lowered as I finally found my comfortable spot. I didn’t care to stare at the alarm clock now and all the noises had settled down into a hum. I didn’t try to resist anymore. I wanted to drift off now. I was so tired and I could feel it hitting me now. I wasn’t worried about tomorrow and would deal with the morning when it came. Just before I drifted off I heard the siren one final time. They were so distant now. They weren’t buzzing or whirling but sounded like a gentle whine. A quiet echo from a distant place. Calling out from so far away. Until at last they were silent and I didn’t listen for them anymore. I let the quiet take my mind as I drifted off to sleep. It was finally quiet now, so quiet and I didn’t need to stare at the damned alarm clock. It was quiet now.

It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.

– John Steinbeck

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