The clocks are out of sync. He can hear the double ticking in the other room, like a baby’s heartbeat.
He stares up at the ceiling, his hands tucked behind his head. The hotel room spreads out around him for aeons in all directions, the dark purple of the night oozing under tables and out of wardrobes. He feels like a space traveller, hurtling through the cosmos as stars whizz past in unfurling spirals. He rolls over. This isn’t helping him sleep.
Through his closed eyelids he can see the white sheets pulsing. They are phosphorescing, catching the scant droplets of light, gathering them up and snuggling them down into the bed. A thousand times, he thinks to himself, a thousand times and every time the same. These hotel rooms are designed for late night thoughts not early morning meetings.
Tick tock. Tick tick tock. Tick tock tock.
He is a grain of sand on a pebble on a rock on a beach. The waves wash over him and he lets himself be caught up, float and undulate with the movement. Here he goes. He’s sailing for sleep now, this is it baby, this is it for sure. This time it’s real, it’s really sleep, it’s really… it’s kind of gritty in this bed, he thinks, rubbing his feet together.
Sigh. He gets up and walks to the window and pulls aside the curtain. Down on the quiet square the gas lights cast small yellow suns onto the baroque facades of the grey buildings. A woman stands under a light, holding a large red umbrella. She looks up at his hotel, the umbrella tilting backwards, and he wonders if she can see him. He holds his hand up, but she doesn’t seem to notice. The umbrella tilts forward and the snow starts to settle on it again.
She must be cold, he thinks, wrapping his arms around his body. He takes a blanket off the bed and sits in the armchair in the adjoining room. He takes up the book from the coffee table and flips the pages. It’s too dark to read, he just wants to turn the pages. He listens to the double ticking of the wall clocks for a long time, flicking the leaves through his fingers, one after another, rubbing them between his fingertips, flipping through them all the way to the end. Finally he falls asleep, just before the cathedral announces 6am with a cacophony of bells.