‘2’

Recently on my short walk to work, I came across a homeless man in an alley. This would, under any other circumstance, be a fairly usual sight for five-thirty in the morning in a relatively large town. However, the man I saw was sat on an industrial bin, with a band around his bicep and a needle wedged into his vein.

Of course, society is aware that drug use is a common recreation. It is exhibited in television and books all the time. Trainspotting is an obvious example, which shows the harrowing effects of heroin and the impact it can have on a person or group of people. However, I’ve never felt uncomfortable watching this and find myself deeming the characters, particularly in the film, to be somewhat cool. In addition to this, there has been a link between the use of hard drugs and an idealistic image since celebrities became well-known for using them. Stand By Me is a film I’d grown up with and the one in which River Phoenix showed his true and natural talent in the industry when he was just a child. Phoenix died of a drug overdose three years before I was born, and yet it’s his unique and popular character that I have been engrossed by. He’s always been to look up to. His death was gritty and dirty and real, and yet his life as a drug user and his craving for a good time have been glorified by society. Even in documentaries about the awful circumstances of his death, his daring lifestyle has been idealised as one that only the successful will have the pleasure to experience.

Bearing this in mind, let’s return to the homeless man I saw on my way into work. There he was, crouched on a bin that stunk of half chewed McDonald’s, with a filthy needle in his hand, spoon to his side. I did not see anything cool, or idealistic, or even any kind of romantic misery in this picture. I couldn’t even bring myself to be sad for him at the time, although it does bring me down now when I think back to him. I suppose I’d always seen myself as a helper, and someone that wouldn’t shy away from a taboo situation such as this. I at least thought I could show the man some humanity. A smile. What’s appropriate? At the time, all I felt was fear. I saw what I saw, processed it, then I drew my eyes to my black shoes and focused on the scuffs, in the hope that this poor man didn’t even exist. When I got to work I was shaking. It took two days of replaying what I’d seen before I could tell anyone.

I suppose I’d always thought I was numb to these things. Groups of kids walk down the high street with joints in their hands all the time, it’s something you smell in cities every day. Drug use on television is shown so rawly. I’m not sure what I’d expected when I saw this man, but I’d never presumed it would be quite so real.

‘1’

You set it yourself and still you curse it the following morning. You know that, whether or not you grace yourself with that beloved snooze button for an extra few minutes, the alarm and the responsibilities it brings will eventually force you awake. You will have to shake your squishy morning brain from the womb of sleep, and into another (probably) cold and boring day.

This has always been me. Since I began to acquire responsibility, the most anxiety provoking idea in my day-to-day life has been the probability that I will ‘sleep through’ my alarm – I have detached those two words from the sentence because that was always my excuse, and a common expression, but has always been a lie. Of course I woke up at the sound of ‘Fog Horn’ bellowing down my ear. I was woken and conscious. And then I would just turn it off again, because sleep brain is selfish. Then well-slept brain would wake up an hour or so later and curse sleep brain for the rest of the day. Recently though, I’ve come to realise that a sixteen-hour sleep (as cosy as it may sound) isn’t actually all that satisfying. It’s like buying a lovely, chunky-in-the-hand £2 sharing bag of Cadbury’s buttons, which you know you will eat all to yourself, and ripping it open only to realise that they’ve filled three quatres of the thing with air to ‘protect the product in transit.’ It’s quite the comparison, but trust me, put the two together one morning and you will feel particularly disgruntled for the rest of the day.

Recently though, myself and sleep brain have come to realise that a sixteen-hour sleep (as cosy as it may sound) isn’t actually all that satisfying. It’s like buying a lovely, chunky-in-the-hand £2 sharing bag of Cadbury’s buttons, all of which you intend to eat yourself, and ripping it open only to realise that they’ve filled three quatres of the thing with air to ‘protect the product in transit.’ It’s quite the comparison, but trust me, put the two together one morning and you will feel particularly disgruntled for the rest of the day.

I am also a student. So, naturally, I have no money. Driven by my desire to eat a full meal, I decided it would be a good idea to say yes to a job starting at a bird-chirping six in the morning. Bloody wonderful… No, seriously. Most of my part-time jobs have been in waitress roles, which required that I devote my entire evening (and occasionally, the first couple of hours of the following morning also) to serving drunken animals who believed I was a slab of flesh to bring their food and flirt with. Either that or I’d be clearing up the sick of the lady on table thirty-four who really couldn’t bear to skip dessert. Waitressing meant waking up at about lunchtime, waiting all day for my dreaded five o’clock start – and going to bed at probably that same time the following morning, only to wake up that same day and wait again.

Here is a fact for you, tested by guinea pig #1 over here. This cycle = not productive.

What I do now, however, is incredible. I wake up at four-thirty every working morning, and I arrive at work half an hour early to settle in. I have a tea and wake up. My job is stress-free and goes crazily fast, sometimes so quickly that I forget I was ever there. When I come home, I think about going back to bed, but I don’t because I don’t need to. I clean. I go to town or I go exploring. I bake, I write. I am awake at a (nearly) normal time, and I feel like a real human being for the first time in, probably, forever. (And I don’t have to go to sleep wondering what bodily fluids I will have to encounter the next day). I really do love mornings.