John awoke with a start. It was dark and without his glasses on he couldn’t make out the digital read-out on his radio alarm clock. Rachel was still sound asleep beside him, giving no indication that his sudden return to consciousness had in any way disturbed her. Feeling it was probably better to maintain that particular status quo, he shuffled delicately out of bed and slowly exited the room.
Deftly avoiding the creaking floorboard on the landing, he made his way carefully down the stairs in darkness, knowing that the slightest hint of light creeping under the bedroom door might be enough to wake his beloved wife.
Once he was safely on the ground floor, he made his way into the living room, where at last he felt it was safe to risk switching on the light. Realising that he had left his spectacles on the bedside table he was forced to squint at the digital readout on the cordless handset that was connected to what was, in the age of the smartphone, a redundant landline. It was 2.30am. Far too early to be awake, but, by the same token, he calculated that, thanks to a relatively early night, he’d had about four and half hours of sleep. It wasn’t enough, given the day he had ahead of him, but he had survived on less.
It wasn’t the lack of sleep that worried him, so much as quite how he was going to occupy the hours before he actually needed to get up for work. Moving around the house would be too noisy, the last thing he wanted or needed was for Rachel to wake up. He loved his wife, but she was not particularly well-disposed to missing out on sleep, and the fall-out for imposing his insomnia on her could result in days of recriminations.
Better then, to suffer in silence. But it was going to be a long night if he couldn’t find anything to pass the time. Television was too noisy, and the novel he was currently attempting to read was sitting next to his glasses in the bedroom.
He scoured the room for anything to do. There was a half-finished jigsaw on the dining table, but that was Rachel’s project, she would not thank him for completing it for her, even if his rationale was that he’d only done it to protect her current state of slumber. Beyond that there was not much else on offer.
He sat for a while, staring at the opposite wall, breathing deeply, trying to relax himself into a state in which a return to sleep might actually be a possibility, but after ten minutes he had succeeded in boring himself, almost to tears, without discovering anything resembling inner peace and tranquillity. Indeed, he was arguably more tense than he had been at the outset.
Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a much-ignored kettlebell, purchased at a time when he had had a wave of enthusiasm and misplaced optimism about getting into shape. Perhaps exercise was the key to solving his current state of insomnolence. Despite being alert beyond all reason, he didn’t really feel that he had the energy for a workout, and it would be a difficult activity to carry out in silence but, in the absence of any other options, it would certainly fill the time. As carefully as he could, he cleared a space in the centre of the room, picked up the weight and started swinging.
Five minutes later, John was breathless, sweating and completely exhausted. He still didn’t feel particularly sleepy, but he certainly felt drained. He collapsed onto the floor and stared up at the ceiling in a daze. He lay there for a while contemplating what else he might do to kill a few minutes. He lay there a little longer. He wasn’t especially comfortable, but neither was he uncomfortable.
John wasn’t sure at what point he had drifted off, but it was daylight when he became aware of Rachel prodding him.
Rachel, for her part, was somewhat confused as to why she had discovered her husband on the living room floor hugging a sixteen-kilogram lump of iron.