He woke again in a panic as if he was being attacked but it wasn’t a nightmare that woke him in the cold darkness. It was a memory that pulled him out of sleep. A memory that lurked below the surface and a day never went by that it didn’t show.
He stood naked in the cold and wiped a circle in the mist on the window and peered at the street. It was dark but for the streetlights and a hint of ultramarine in the sky with the stars beginning to fade. He could hear the hum of distant traffic, of people going to work so he knew the sun would soon rise.
He went to the bathroom and held himself steady against the wall while he peed. He was drowsy but it was too early for coffee and his work day was hours away. He wanted to return to bed but he knew that he would not sleep and that he would be tired during the day.
He dressed in thick socks and pants and a heavy dressing gown and went out and lit a smoke. He watched a man walking briskly along the street, with his hands tucked into his pockets and a bag slung over a shoulder. He heard the screech of a train braking and the crunch of tyres turning on gravel. He heard the footfalls of someone running and the low rumble of a car warming up under the building. He listened to the magpies calling and greeting the morning.
If only he could live in the moment like the birds, he thought and live each day as it came or plan for the future but the past clung to him like a worn shirt. Each day was an extension of the last and every day before that going back to the time when he had made the big mistake.
He had betrayed the one he loved and he hadn’t dealt with it and the guilt and remorse held him firmly in the past. He prayed that he would wake one day to find that it had never happened. If only he could forget but as memories faded, the remorse had not. It had grown stronger like a tumour. Unnoticed at first until it took hold and in time had become a part of the small movements of his days.
He returned to his bed but sleep eluded him as it always did. So he put on the coffee as he always did and dressed.