The Best Hour of the Day

Magic spells supposedly break at midnight, but not in my case. For me, this is when they begin, culminating in a delicious period between wakefulness and the sleep that follows without warning, because I have had as much excitement as is good for me, and must return to coffee and “real life” in the morning.

In the quiet of the night, when the rushing cars on the highway have found their destinations and the only noise I hear is the occasional slam of a distant door down the hallway, Erik Satie comes to life. The soft notes of the piano that are drowned out by day begin to live and breathe at midnight; their minimalistic gravity goes straight home. Road trips in faraway America seem a real possibility if I only hope for them hard enough- and when I fall asleep, it is not on my own bed but under the stars or in a car that has broken down on the highway, in the middle of a desert. The romanticisation of suffering in art seems dramatic no longer. Clashing cymbals and bleak snow-covered landscapes represent the crises that besiege people in books, cinema- and life with sunshine and electric lights. Sentimentality ceases to be mawkish, which is about the only part I have trouble coming to grips with.

For one whole year, I slept in a bedroom through whose window the moon always shone in, except on rainy nights. Because it was a tropical country with sudden, violent rainstorms that spent their fury quickly, I had the moon for company very often. This eighteenth-floor apartment would turn into a cottage in the Alps, and I’d be Heidi in her attic: a commonplace bedroom by day was magically transformed at night, no more a repository of dreams but actually becoming the visions themselves. It is much easier to imagine things in the dark than with the sunshine streaming through a window, which is probably why I like cloudy days. I don’t find them gloomy and disturbing- instead, they raise my spirits. The promise of rain in the air seems to reflect something of life itself, and makes the wildest creations of my imagination seem practical.

Moonlight doesn’t slip into my bedroom any longer, and I sleep in utter darkness. I don’t like slivers of electric light under doorways or sodium lamps or the tiny green flicker of the fire alarm. They are too sterile for comfort. If I can’t have natural light when I’m falling asleep, I’d rather not have any light at all. That uncertain area between wakefulness and sleep can be grey- sins, fears, sorrows and despair are just as much in love with it as a vivid imagination- but it is also when I have the best thoughts of the entire day, secure in the knowledge that I am on the verge of taking a new trip to wherever I choose. Tonight, I think it’ll be somewhere in California.

PS. I’m going through a road-trip fascination phase. Blame Jack Kerouac, Chris McCandless and John Steinbeck.

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