Itchy and tired eyes plague me today, but for the best of reasons.
I spent last night in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house and, as I did hundreds of times growing up, I went to bed early with a good book. And, as often happened during my teenage years, an hour reading before putting out the light turned into two hours, three, six. The household was up and moving before I’d reached my final chapter and my mother bustled in to wake me from a sleep I’d not had.
I love reading in the small hours when it feels like everyone else must be asleep and nothing can possibly intrude on your story. That guilty pleasure of being awake hours after you’re supposed to be, the semi-furtive search for a book light, that moment of stillness when it seems as if someone else must surely have noticed the creak of the bed when you adjusted your pillows. Of course, in my grown-up adult life, there’s no-one to admonish me for having the lights on or to interrogate me for making multiple trips to the kitchen or bathroom before the sun comes up. But I’ve found that, in recent years, the guilty pleasure of doing something I shouldn’t has given way to the far-less-pleasurable guilt of not doing something I should be doing. No matter how engaging my book, the little 3am devil on my shoulder no longer gives out to me for staying awake, but for staying awake reading. After all, if I’m going to be awake before the sun comes up, shouldn’t I really pay some bills by 24-hour banking, or clear my email inbox? If I’m going to have the lights on, shouldn’t I put away the now-dry dishes or clear my desk? In the end, it’s usually easier to put down my book and try to sleep than to ignore the niggling reminders and read on.
So last night, content in the knowledge that I was a long way away from my bills and my desk, and knowing that my mother has never once tolerated drip-dried dishes, I read and read and read.
And today, as it turns out, brought its own remedy for red eyes: lashings and lashings of glorious autumn sunshine.