Or ‘I wish I could write a love song’
I couldn’t sleep. I looked at the bedside clock. It had a familiar face, but an unfamiliar casing. It was quarter to one in the morning. I’d no idea what time I’d gone to bed but I knew I’d not slept. I had to sleep, I was driving to Nottingham tomorrow, so I knew I needed to rest.
By the side of my bed, on a vaguely familiar wooden stool (from my childhood?) my brother had brought me a pile of paperbacks about grief from a friend. Stapled to the front of the book on top was a note from his friend. I glanced at it, but didn’t read it. I couldn’t face it. I wanted and needed to go to sleep.
There was a Phil Collins song in my head, but I couldn’t remember all the words, just snippets of lyrics “leave me alone with my heart…I wish I could write a love song”; parts of the melody, piano chords.
I was laid on the edge of our bed at home, the wooden frame edge digging into my hip. For some reason, my brother lay next to me in between me and Trace. I asked him to move in a little. I think he was awake, I wasn’t sure. I could see Trace couldn’t sleep either and she was on her iPad, the light of the screen and of her jigsaw puzzle game reflecting up, her back to me.
Molly our daughter was in the room in another bed, I think, as if our bedroom was a family room. They’d been to see a client yesterday (they’d had to cover for me for some reason) and were talking about how well the meeting had gone. They were pleased with themselves. The client was British Airways, who were worried about their brand getting sold to one of their competitors, all who’d seen a 40% rise in revenues, they told me. We talked in hushed tones for a while. I took the piss out of them for not asking for their budget and payment terms, like Trace would ask of me.
But still, I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to get up. I was listening to Trace and Molly talk quietly about their day. It felt infinitely normal, almost peaceful, but with the edge of tension that sleeplessness brings. I started to fold a pair of gym shorts that were now dry on the radiator.
It was then I realised there was a single bed next to ours and Beth was in it, sat up in bed, watching me as I folded the shirts, smiling, listening to our conversation. Her hair was a mix of blonde and blue dye, as she’d had over the years she’d lived as a student in London. She watched me calmly in silence.
I heard noises and laughter and the front door opening and slamming shut.
“Who’s that?” I asked Trace.
“I don’t know.” she replied.
I stood by the bedroom door as Beth watched me from her bed, a reassuring smile on her gentle face.
I pulled open the door and there, on the landing, were a couple of Izzy’s friends, dressed in towels, as if they were about to get a shower. Their skin was pale, but coloured, as though they’d been in a dry paint fight. They looked surprised to see my surprise, as though I’d known they’d be staying the night and coming home late.
Then Izzy walked in from her room, chatting away as ever and laughing. She too was dressed in a towel, her skin less coloured and more pale.
I instantly pulled her into our bedroom. She stood in front of me. She was looking at me like I was acting weird. Like everything was normal, what was I playing at?
I touched her arms. I felt the softness of her skin, the ridges of the scar on her right arm.
“You’re here!” I said loudly.
“What you on about?” she replied, giving me her quizzical look.
I pulled her towards me. I held her. I hugged her. I felt her warmth, her breathing. I started to get upset. The touch of her skin, softness. I started to cry.
I thought, ‘This is real. I can’t get to sleep. I’m awake. This is real.’
I pulled back, holding her arms still. We were face to face, close. I looked into her eyes. She was looking at me like I was gone out.
Then I woke up…
In front of me was an unfamiliar wall of wooden paneling, cream curtains, a faint yellowy light, darker than our bedroom at home, white cotton duvet. I realised I was in room 14, L’Cottage hotel, Morzine, in the French Alps. Trace was awake next to me. I wasn’t at home with Izzy and with Beth and Molly. I was awake.
Then I cried…
This is the most vivid, lucid dream I’ve had about Beth and Izzy. I guess it was a mesh of reality (on holiday, 3am, not able to sleep, but as it turned out, I nodded off) and a sense of deep, deep longing for them to be alive. For them to be here, to be home. For life to be normal and mundane again.
I guess the biggest shame was, even awake, I couldn’t get the Phil Collins song out of my head. Turns out it’s ‘You Know What I Mean’.
“Just as I thought I’d make it
You walk back into my life
Just like you never left.”
“I wish I could write a love song
To show you the way I feel.”