He lay back and listened to the birds singing outside his window. People liked birdsong, he thought. They bought CDs of it, stayed up late to hear nightingales. He thought the morning chorus might be more exciting if he didn’t hear it every day. It was beginning to get light outside. A dim blue-grey glow leaked around the sides of the curtains. Almost the same colour as the readout on the front of the big square alarm clock on the desk. He looked at 03:48 spelt out in cold digital numerals. He thought, in 12 minutes I will still have three hours until the alarm goes off. He tried to remember the distance between his two homes in Leeds and London. 200 miles or so straight along the M1. He thought about how much bigger London is than everywhere else, and then ordered the other cities in England by population. London, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford. What about Scotland? Glasgow must be in there somewhere. 9 minutes. He listened to the quiet tick tick tick of the fire alarm five foot above his head. Outside in the corridor the front door rattled in the wind. He wondered if he should get out of bed and double check the door was locked. What about the downstairs windows? It was easy to forget to shut them, and then someone could get in. He thought it would be cold if he got out of bed. He shut his eyes and buried his face in the pillow. Thought about the deadline that was coming up, and why did he procrastinate the way he did, and where had his motivation gone recently, and why do leaves turn yellow in the autumn? He turned over and glanced across the room at the clock. 7 minutes. He took a swig of water and held it in his mouth. He thought it tasted stale. He should get a proper bottle to drink from. He thought about the tiny bits of discarded plastic bottles floating around in the sea and the fish eating them and becoming sick. He thought about that video he saw where the Great Barrier Reef was turning white because the sea was too warm. He thought about Finding Nemo. He turned onto his side and faced the wall. He turned onto his other side and faced the door. 5 minutes. That girl popped into his head, and he thought about why he was nervous with women. He thought about how scary it was to meet new people, and thought maybe if he wasn’t tired all the time he would be smarter and funnier, and more confident. He thought probably not. He saw the streetlights outside switch off, and thought about the national grid, and fuel prices, and whether or not he was getting a good deal on energy. He thought nobody gets a good deal on energy so there is no point in worrying. He thought, I wasn’t worrying I was just thinking about it. 3 minutes. He listened to his heart beat speed up and slow down as he breathed in and out. He wondered if it counted as arrhythmia, and thought about that friend who didn’t take drugs because of an irregular heartbeat. He thought about that friend’s tiny flat in London. 200 miles away. He remembered that friend lived in Brighton now. Or was it Bristol? He wondered why we still used miles when everything else was metric. He remembered seeing road signs in Spain and thinking 120 miles an hour wasn’t much of a speed limit. He thought it would be a good idea to learn another language.
The clock said 1 minute left, and he curled up tighter under the covers. He wondered why he could never sleep with his socks on. He took them off with his feet and kicked them out of the bed. He listed the colours in the new pack of pencils on his desk. He couldn’t remember what came after Burnt Ochre. He considered getting out of bed and going for a quick run to tire himself out, but he new that wouldn’t work. He stayed in bed.
When he looked at the clock again it read 04:01 and he was angry with himself for missing 04:00 exactly.
He thought, in 59 minutes I will still have two hours until the alarm goes off.