I’m sat waiting. For what remains one of those answerable mysteries in life. It’s 3:00am, although in these situations time becomes so relative it almost ceases to hold any real use. I mention it here only to help paint you a picture. Looking out of the oval window all I can see is darkness. I haven’t slept in quite a long time and my reflection looks strangely blurred in the plastic window. I’m in Rome by the way, but to be honest, I could be anywhere.
A scattering of people sit around me patiently waiting – for what I’m sure they don’t know. An American girl has the confidence to kick off her shoes and curl up on some spare seats. Just behind her sits an Indian girl who is reading a foreign paper with such intensity that you would be forgiven for thinking she was about to be tested on its content at arrivals. Later I glance over though and notice her reading out of date horoscopes. A few seats along from her a strong shouldered father lets his hulk of his body relax as his young boy rests his head onto him. The boy’s eyes flicker open and shut with the passing of seconds as time slips by.
These hours are so rarely seen for me that they take on a certain majestic anarchy. An elation you feel when you’ve stayed up all night drinking only to be met with the scorns of suited commuters in the early hours of the next morning. It’s a trick of time placing humanity outside their near perfect circles of life.
Some in these twilight situations grasp for normality – I overheard one man say to his wife, “I’ll try and get a few hours shut eye”. Others though, the brave or the stupid, throw caution to the wind and subconsciously put a metaphorical middle finger up to the constraints of humanities self-created time constraints. Who are to say we sleep at night time? The thought of brushing their teeth doesn’t cross their minds, let alone their lips.
For me though I am just dazed. It is like something fundamental has shifted. I feel like a moth that has flown too close to an artificial light. It’s like the very thing that I guide myself on – time – has been ripped up and replaced with some weird man made alternative to what nature designed.
And so, almost instinctively, I resort to learned behaviour and begin to think back to the last-time I graced this no-man’s land of time. Not for the first time in recent months my memories drift back to Jayyus – the small Palestinian village I lived in back in the 2012.
In my mind’s eye I can picture it as clearly as a photograph. I’m sat cold at about 3:00am, although in these situations time becomes so relative it almost ceases to hold any real use. I mention it here only to help paint you a new picture. I have just come in from spending a few hours in the dead of night monitoring yet another army raid on the village. The metal bed frame makes a split-second screech on the tiled floor as my weight lazily flops onto the foam mattress. I sit there perfectly still for a few seconds and calculate the number of minutes until my alarm would go off and I would be back out of the house and into the dark night. 84.
And so, with a recklessness of an Englishman who hasn’t has his cup of tea before breakfast I decide to forfeit that night’s sleep. With this decision made the next comes easily to hand as I pick up my pen and begin to write. And, I mean actually write, with a pen…onto paper. Not a laptop in sight!
For this 21st century digital boy, the feel of a pen in his had surrounded by nothing but the dead of night, there is a sense of freedom. It’s a freedom to write unconstrained by modern expectations. It’s like you’re already breaking some unspoken rules of life so fuck it, what is an extra couple of indulgent adjectives between friends? Why not write an entire paragraph about some complete strangers sitting close to you on a plane? Why not try and make sense of all the complexities and contradictions that living in an entrenched war zone will throw at you? Why not….you’ve got hours until breakfast and no-one brushes their teeth at 3:00am.
The captain of the plane breaks my trail of thoughts to tell me we will be arriving in Canada at 12:15 local time. I sit back with my pen in hand and note book on my lap and think to myself that I have no idea how that relates to whatever time zone I was currently in.
At some point my body started demanding the normality of sleep. But as my eyes gave up on me even while me hands still gripped my pen a thought ran through my head that dwelled on how much I enjoyed just having the time to write with nothing but my own self-indulgent thoughts and memories. I thought about how much I enjoyed writing without the self-imposed time constraints of modern life.
I stopped writing because I fell asleep. I woke up happy.