Night Shift

I left the house when the kids were going to bed, scraped the sleet off the car and drove past the snug little bungalows with their billiard table lawns and miniature wishing-wells; my mind going forwards and the world going backwards. It was too soon for revellers and too late for shoppers, leaving the dark streets lanced by yellow beams, deserted and sad, washed by filthy rain, and swept of meaning.
Even before I entered, the wails and monotones reached out of the unit’s front door like a monastic chant, but I forced a grin at the annoying levity of staff on their eager way home, as the old tired rituals began once again.
After three hours had passed, I watched the last chain-smoker going to bed, wishing I was in mine, and I flinched as the gathering silence was shattered by a patient deciding to run a bath at midnight. There was more silence, more doors, more wandering souls, then a period of tenuous tranquillity as the clock moved slowly on to 2.00a.m. Armies of unseasonable flies, wasps, mosquitoes and moths floated and buzzed around the hot reviving lights, while my eyes struggled to concentrate on a Bronte classic rendered meaningless by fatigue. Needing to walk around just to stay awake, I inspected the tightly screwed on, plastic covered prints of impressionist scenes for the tenth time that night, and heard every snore, sigh and mumble in the building – not because they were near, but because I was sensitised to the slightest sound, like an unwilling guard dog.
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