Opinion: A sneeze in time
MY EYES are really sore.
I rub them continually because they're stinging. Pressing hard into my tear ducts with my thumbs helps for a second and then they're sore again.
Hayfever season is starting. Ragweed is flowering I reckon. Anytime soon I'll start sneezing. Not just one sneeze every now and again but bouts of explosive sneezes that will have my nose leaking like a gas drill rig, and me puffing like an emphysemic, stumbling like a drunk.
I can't sleep. It could be the sore eyes, or it could an insomnia that is becoming part of my nightly life.
I have a radio in the bed next to me. Not beside the bed, in the bed. Yes, that's sad. I have a static relationship. But the radio is an ally in my quest for sleep. The chatter of Radio National or News Radio is the background drone of my nights. It helps me sleep.
With the radio on, I drift in and out of slumber on the murmuring waves of papal turnovers, Abbott's opinions, stock market reports - stuff of no consequence. It's a lingual lullaby, each hour heralded by the ABC news tune.
Without the radio, I'm awake all night, a red-eyed audience to a cacophony of silence. Is that a distant neighbour's car thumping up a gravel driveway or blood pumping through my inner ear? Is that noise of insects and night beasts or a man crying? Is that her voice or a wild dog's howl echoing off the cliffs?
Whatever it is, this mysterious silence keeps me awake. Has it come to this? Even to sleep, I now need constant distraction. I need mindlessness. I need a sleep app near. Keep it shallow stupid!
So, I turn on the radio.
Sure, it must be poisoning my subconscious, these turgid pontifications of politicians and pontiffs that dribble into my ear all night long. But the distraction gets me a little shut-eye before having to get up.
But tonight my radio therapy isn't working. I have listened for hours. Syria is burning. Australia is not. War is bad but for the good. The dollar is up. Or down. Or something. Climate change means more hayfever, less polar bears. There's a new phone coming.
Sleep still won't come so I turn the radio off and try reading my book.
It's about Cambodia. But the story of the Khmer Rouge - a tale of humanity's capacity for cruelty, of governmental betrayal - does not carry me to Sleepville.
I shut the book and place it beside the radio.
I've run out of distractions.
Wish I could watch Masterchef. Reality television is the ultimate sleeping drug. Maybe I could cook something. I could be plating up in five.
Is it too early to brushcut?
Thinking about pleasant things might send me to the Land of Nod: Metgasco has gone. That's good. But beware governmental betrayal, says a Cambodian.
Okay. I give up. I rise on one elbow and reach for the light. Time for a cuppa...
But the universe blinks.
Maybe a microbat flew close by between me and the starlight of the window but there was a definite blink. Now through that window I see a million stars bright as suns. A sparkling galaxy is spilt across the black. Wow. Was that there last night?
In this darkest hour before dawn, I see the universe. It's big. Despite a rooster's crow, it's become very quiet, peaceful.
I lay my head on the pillow.
My mouth opens. A yawn? Sleep perhaps? No.
I sneeze. And sneeze.