My neighbour’s front door grates and pushes over the swollen wooden frame, before she finally shuts it with a click. The sound of the door closing didn’t wake me though, because although it’s nearly 4am, I still haven’t fallen asleep yet.
I've come to recognise all the noises of the night, from the slow ticking of the hot water tank as it cools down, to the creaking of the staircase as the house shifts and settles; breathing a sigh of relief as it relaxes for the night. From the slightly open bedroom window, comes the sound of the fox that hunts along the grass verge outside, snuffling about in the dry fallen leaves of last summer, looking for worms and mice. Some night he will call with a horrible barking like a lost soul in the darkness, calling out for help. Floating through the cool air comes the beautiful, but mournful song of our resident robin, who can be heard most nights of the year; especially in winter time, reminding us that spring is not far away, and for a while last summer, there was the ghostly 'twit twoo' of a pair tawny owls that took up residence in the woods across the green. Sometimes at the weekend - mostly on hot summer nights – I recognise the sound of late night revellers, as they make their way home from the local town. Money spent: no cash for a taxi; drunken bravado, voices, and mumbled conversation about their evening, drifts along on the night air. All these sounds of the night come and go depending on what time of year it is, except for one. We live just a short distance from a busy motorway and even in the middle of the night the comforting whoosh of cars and lorries as they travel to who knows where, can always be heard.
But then I hear something alien. A rumbling sound not far away, and loud. So loud that I get out of bed to peek out of the window. I wipe a little hole in the cool condensation on the glass, which feels cold on my fingertips, and peer outside. A figure – a woman I think – is walking along the road pulling a suitcase on wheels behind her. I watch her for a moment, before she disappears from view, and then feeling cold, I climb back into bed under the warm duvet.
The mystery woman plays on my mind. Its 4:10am, and -2° outside: where could she be going?
Is she running away, or running to someone; is it the end of a relationship for her, or the start of something new?
But as I consider where she might be going, and imagine all sorts of fictional reasons for her being out in the cold, and dark, I have finally found an antidote for tonight’s insomnia...