Dan slowly filled his lungs with air, paused, then emptied them. He imagined a cloud drifting across his forehead. He saw it move to the side - to be replaced by another. The relaxation technique involved putting his thoughts onto these clouds and watching them drift away. At the moment he only had silly thoughts, such as - did he remember to buy porridge for the morning? Seriously? Was it really porridge that was preventing him from sleeping?
He lay there and tried to think of nothing, the darkness of the bedroom spread out before him. His body was relaxed but his mind wouldn’t allow him to drift off. It kept tugging at his sleeve, wanting attention. What was it trying to tell him?
Sally lay next to him. Those long, blond locks spread out made Dan think of her as a heroine from a fairy tale. Her fair, delicate features reinforced the image. And she was a heroine, considering the trouble Dan had put her through. Being pregnant hadn’t made things easier. He hoped she’d come around to liking the idea but, with a month to the baby’s due date, time was running out. That was a thought, a troubling one. He made it drift away.
He concentrated on his breathing again. He yawned. He often yawned. But it was never the precursor to sleep that it was for others. He knew it was futile. He was going through the motions. He was tired but not sleepy. Exhausted but lively. Insomnia was a naughty child.
Dan swung his legs out of the bed. The chill air made his nose tender, the radiator was cold to the touch. He reached for his dressing gown and slowly made his way out of the bedroom. He knew which floorboards creaked and which didn't.
He took one last look at Sally. Her cute little features twitched but she didn’t stir.
There wasn’t a sound from outside the window. It was certainly different from living in Wimbledon, near the hurly burly of London. No constant hum from the Broadway here.
Anyway, that had been a different life.
Events had driven them a hundred miles away. If only the strangeness of their new location could be blamed for his insomnia. But he liked their new domicile. Although he wasn’t sure that Sally did.
In the kitchen, Dan wrapped his hands around a warm, comforting mug of hot chocolate. He dipped his nose into the rising steam, making it wet but warm. He felt even warmer when it wended its way to his stomach.
Dan pottered into the lounge and turned on the TV. There was a Los Angeles Lakers game underway. He didn't yet fully understand the tactical intricacies of basketball but he knew enough to follow the action. It made him forget what the time was here, forget that he was an insomniac, and that there were reasons why, even if they were hidden away in his mind. He adjusted the volume of the TV so it was barely audible, just a reassuring hum, and curled up on the sofa.
Dan aimlessly stroked his hair. It was getting long - long for Dan. He liked it short, as anything else didn’t suit the boyish face that belied his thirty five years.
There was a fracas in the basketball, a dispute over a charging foul. A player’s eyes were bulging as he got into the face of an opponent. Dan was no lip reader but the player wasn’t wishing the other player a good day.
An hour watching the alternating left-right motion on the court should eventually help him to drift off for a couple of hours - he hoped. The flickering image in the darkened room was already mesmerising him.
He heard a car pull up outside. He glanced at the clock. It was 3 a.m.