When I finally climb into bed on the day we’re due to hand in spring term essays, I don’t fall asleep immediately, even though I’ve been living on the sofa for the past three days, buried in books and online journals, even though I have spent hours wrapping 12,000 words around two academic ideas, even though it’s 4:22 a.m. and I have to be up again at 8. I just lie there, beset with exhaustion, aware of these strange new aches in my body, inside my triceps and the arches of my feet and the backs of the fingers on my left hand, as though someone has glazed my skin with a mild acid that is just beginning to burn.
It is nights like this when I’m most grateful for WireTap, for the even cadence of Jonathan Goldstein’s radio voice, for a place to focus my manic thoughts so that my brain can withdraw itself from the conscious world for a few hours.
Fortunately, I’ve learned to keep my expectations low on days when I’ve only been able to afford a starter-portion of sleep. When you’re fighting warm eyes and stubborn muscles, it’s enough to choose an outfit that won’t frighten children, purchase a blank CD in a stationary shop using a large bill so you have enough coins to feed the university printer for two copies of both your essays as well as your flatmates’, get to the train station in time to purchase the largest available coffee, stay awake until your rail stop and get all eight documents printed, stapled and submitted on time. It’s almost enough to walk straight. It’s enough to engage in coherent conversation with the classmates who join you in the café to commiserate after handing in the assignments, to laugh with them about how wasted they’re ready to get as though you are too, when really, you fully intend to go home, lie on the couch with a bowl of pesto penne and watch The Biggest Loser and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution until the Sandman claims you. It’s enough to stay upright for the amount of time it takes to share a plate of Japanese food with a friend and fall in love with a sale dress at Anthropologie.
And when your expectations are that low, the ability to return home at 6 p.m., vacuum the carpets, wash dishes, cook dinner, submit your census information, paint your nails, clean your room and enjoy a cup of tea… well, it makes for a pretty good day.