15 August, 2023

I rise before my alarm goes off. Moving like a man oblivious to time, I unfold gray clothes and dress myself. Outside of the cell window, dark grass claws its way free of the soil, newly fed by summer rains. I piss. I pour a cup of water. The pungence of instant coffee soon fills the space. I sit in darkness, thinking assailable thoughts.

2. A jingle of some guard's heavy brass keys wakes me with a start. The clock at the end of my bunk reads 3:18 AM
still more than two hours before I usually wake up. I lie prone, eyes closed, listening to the whoosh of air from the ducts. Several cells down the row, a toilet flushes. From far away, sleep taunts me with a call of "Catch me if you can!" 3. In the grand scheme of things, this day won't matter. These breaths I'm taking now are nothing, from the unfathomable perspective of the universe's infinite void. Why bother at all with this alarm, this pathetic little device created to instill in the humans who use it a vain sense of purpose as we stumble about our minuscule lives? Why get out of bed? Why dress and shave and all the rest if this, in the cosmic sense, will all be over soon anyway? My stripped-clean bones' ultimate disintegration, these concrete walls' crumbling to dust, and the heat death of the universe itself are all inevitabilities so why expend the energy to get up? Yet somehow, I muster enough fortitude to open one eye.... 4. There was a song. Now I don't remember how it went. We were singing it together, the cast of The Simpsons and myself. I don't mean the voice actors who perform as characters for the show, but the characters themselves. We were in a Matt Groening version of Denny's, performing terrible, croony songs for the elderly midday diners. I wake up wondering whether it's stranger that my mind could envision me singing alongside cartoon characters or that I might dream about a TV series I haven't watched in more than twenty-four years. 5. Morning. The bed is the perfect temperature not so warm that I risk sweating, not so cool that I'll bother dragging my blanket up from the foot. I also, somehow, have found a comfortable position. The sheets are clean and still fluffy from yesterday's washing. I could stay right here, just like this, until noon except there's work to be done. 6.
I bolt upright and slap my alarm clock. I lie back down and stretch my arms, my neck, my legs, my spine. A thought crosses my mind: Exactly when did I become someone who doesn't care to sleep in?. Climbing down from the bunk, I slip. In the awkward process of righting myself, I twist my wrist to a point just this side of painful. For a moment, the temptation is to pre-emptively resign myself to a cavalcade of minor failures today. A moment later, I reconsider, regroup, and find my center. I embark.