Wednesday, December 21


YOU KNOW, I thought, stationing myself outside the building for a cigarette, that could very nearly have escaped your attention. Then you really would be doomed. Such a startling revelation as that need be acknowledged immediately.
I was, at last, losing my mind.
It started with something trivial yet, at the same time, slightly bizarre. Many would not consider the moment again for the course of the day and would go to sleep believing that they were of sound mind, until gradually they go madder and madder, breeding ants in their fridge, or putting a line of string around a tin of turpentine and taking it for a walk.
After a sleepless night I returned to my working routine, having had four days off. I overslept and nearly missed the train. Again, and to my frustration, I could not sleep on there, either. Eventually—and with not much of the journey left—I fell asleep.
I was awoken in the City. The train motionless and the familiar platform-long lights running parallel to the train. The echoing of the information booth could be heard all over, even inside the cooling innards of my train. I was awoken by a handsome man I immediately recognised as a colleague. He had touched my shoulder.
“All right,” and he said my name. “We’re here.”
I shook my head awake, straightened my hair and looked out of the window. Indeed we were!
“All right, Pete. Cheers.” It was Pete from the office. He had shaved blonde hair and blue eyes with wrinkles beginning in the corners. The train was empty. How long had I been asleep there? “Cheers, man. I haven’t been sleeping well.”
Pete rushed off the train. We would be both be a little late.
I set about putting my coat on, folding down the ruffled collar, and putting my bag over my shoulder. The platform was almost empty. I could not see Pete. He could not have left it that quickly. I searched around. Nothing. No Pete. Of course, he was in a hurry and I should be, too. I would see him later in the office. I bought some water and some orange juice and carried them in a plastic bag down the street. One of my legs was
numb and it was difficult to walk properly and when, before, I would have taken on buses, now I knew that I wouldn’t make it in time.
I told some people about Pete waking me up. “I have no idea what he was doing on my train. I didn’t think he lived my way.” I thought of writing him an e-mail to thank him; after all, everyone else had left me there to rot. A sleeping body is no one’s business, really. No, I would thank him in person.
As I was getting into the lift, Pete ran past to use the toilet. He was in the middle of a meeting and I had to be quick.
“Cheers for waking me up earlier, man.” I said.
“On my train. You woke me up earlier, on the train. What were doing you doing on my train, anyway?”
He looked baffled, utterly without a clue, as if I would pull such a prank on him.
“What are you talking about?”
It dawned on me. Right then. As if clarity had just stepped out of the opening lift and smacked me around the cheek. I was losing my mind. I had to take in the news quickly because Pete was still staring at me and the lift doors were starting to close.
“Oh, nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
There was another man in the lift and I had to share my discovery right away.
“I thought Pete had woken me up on the train this morning. But he hadn’t. So who the fuck woke me up and why did I call them ‘Pete’?”
Who was this other Pete? I must find him straight away and thank him for waking me, if only so I could arrive to work on time, and better still, confirm that I am not going insane.
I could not enjoy that cigarette. My mind was bustling with thoughts of insanity that lay supine inside me then leapt up whenever they felt like it, say, at eight-thirty in the morning. This whole business of existence is hard enough without hallucinations. Only a coffee would take my mind off it. So I started down the road in search of a coffee.

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