Saturday, 2 October 2010

Three o'clock in the morning

She'd fallen from the warm enfolding arms of sleep to the cold empty vault of wakefulness.
Now she sat at the kitchen table, relishing the heat of the tea as it washed away the last vestiges of drowsiness.
Even at three in the morning there was no peace, no silence in the house. He'd lain there oblivious as she slipped out of bed, his slow, steady breath sounding like the white noise of an untuned tv. Downstairs now, the droning hum of the fridge replaced his snoring, accompanied by the rhythmical back beat of the clock on the mantelpiece.
She had a spot on her chin. She could feel it growing, pushing at her skin from inside, like a living creature, a mole seeking to break through the earth's crust. Pointlessly she tried to push it back. Her skin felt taut and stretched, smooth and shiny.
No-one had ever told her she'd still get spots at this age. Every month for more than thirty years, a sign of her body's monthly cycle. Almost the only thing that had stayed with her since her teenage years.
In front of her on the table lay a copy of The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov. She'd been reading it earlier in the evening. Perhaps her love of words was another thing that had stayed.
Snippets from the play came back to her. Set in Russia, more than a hundred years ago, it was a different world, a different century.
Chekov had called it a comedy, it was certainly no Aristotleian tragedy, but the sadness showed through.
Moments of absurdity, of arm-waving clumsiness, only seemed to heighten the sense of hopelessness for the characters, passing through life, unable to take or make the decisions that would alter their fate. All they could do was live and love, love and lose, watching the passing years reflected in the ageing faces of those around them.
She shivered; the early morning air seeped around her bare legs, her tea had gone cold. She emptied the dregs down the sink, watched them swirl away.
"Live, love, and carry on" she told herself as she switched off the light and slowly, carefully, inched her way up the stairs and back to bed.


Mr London Street said...

Just lovely. Your powers of observation are just beautiful. I too have had trouble sleeping lately, but there's nothing delicate or elegant about reading the latest Jilly Cooper slumped on the sofa.

Philip said...

I really liked this. I could feel the stillness of the house. Mansfieldesque even.

Pat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sharon Longworth said...

Pat - really sorry, I removed your comment, as there seemed to be a huge amount of blank page under it, which was hiding the comments box.

So.. - this is what Pat said...

Those pre-menstrual zits were a bugger. No longer praise be.
Lovely piece and reminded me how I used to enjoy Chekov's women's languor and the eternal plans to 'go to Moscow.'
Through out the latest excitements I have been sleeping well but now waking at five with head buzzing with 'things to do.' Bummer!

Sharon Longworth said...

MLS - thank you - I love your writing, so your comments mean a lot to me.

Philip - if only! I shall go read a bit more of Ms Mansfield and aspire to write half as well.

Eryl said...

Blogger just ate my comment, bastard!

It was something like: this is good, she seems on the verge of taking action. Her discontent is building, she gets no peace, she feels time is running out, and then at the last gasp she gives herself a pep talk and diffuses the situation. But how long can she go on like this?

About her I know, she is middlish aged, educated and well read, and she still has something of her teenaged self about her even if it does seem only to be a tendency to spots. Something is growing inside her, is it the strength to take control of her life?

I don't know The Cherry Orchard well enough (only seen a BBC adaptation and that was years ago) to make any connections between it and this. But I've read a lot of Chekov's short stories and his characters never seem to take the final leap, they are too bound by convention and although this makes them act in some absurd ways I always get the sense that they will never do anything to change their lives and will never be happy. I hope this isn't so for your character, but, you clever thing, you leave it so open.

Jeannie said...

I felt that she was reaching the peri-menopausal phase of her life where sleeplessness reigns (yes, why did I leap to the organic problem first?)and thought that no matter what she was reading she'd feel discontented.

For example, it seemed as though her husband's snoring represented his ignorance towards her feelings even during the daytime, so that when she trudged back up the stairs zombie-like, it was as if she were in a depressed coma and completely alone. Or was it merely fatigue--night after night with no sleep?

Will you continue this saga for us? That would be fun :-).

Sharon Longworth said...


Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, think about it and then comment (and then comment again when Blogger lost it). I'm thrilled that you found enough in there to let you do that. Thank you.

Sharon Longworth said...

Thank you too for sharing your thoughts - which make me want to keep trying to write.