Nighttime. I sleep at night. Occasionally, I don’t – I lie awake wishing I could sleep. Or, I wonder what Santa might be bringing me in the morning. Mostly, I sleep. The thing about sleep, well – it tends to mean you’re out for the count with your systems largely shutdown. Your brain churns through the days events, stomach works over the evening meal, muscles relax and expand (make you that little bit taller when you wake up in the morning) and so forth. When you wake, it takes time for everything to get back up to speed and for the brain to expel the excesses of melatonin produced overnight by the pineal gland. Normally, waking takes time and the creeping sunlight through the window causes the gland to stop production and drowsiness to fade. Suddenly waking in the middle of the night, you don’t get the chance for any natural fade to happen, so you feel like crap.
Last night, I woke at 4am feeling crap. For a moment, I lay there, woozy – and then my brain processed a message incoming from my ears… what was that banging sound? Distant, but distinct, I lay a while longer and the banging continued. I have no idea how long before I woke that same banging had been going on. I suspect, in the depths of the sleep cycle you could easily miss it. I checked the time and then turned to my wife – just as she asked me what that banging was. I didn’t know. Groggily we both climbed out of bed and stalked out on to the landing. I thought, perhaps, it could be one of the cats. Suki, a large female, likes to make her presence known by hanging off doors. One door in our house has glass panes top and bottom, with a wooden panel between. She leaps and grabs the top of this panel with her front claws and pulls her head up to stare into the house. This, in Suki speak, means she wants in. I postulated that maybe someone locked her into the porch or something and she had grown tired of waiting quietly for someone to let her out.
We checked a couple of upstairs rooms, then descended to the ground floor. Pre-dawn light trickled in through the windows, so we could see well enough. The banging continued, now almost definitely coming from the side of the house where the garage is. I say garage… I might as well say ‘storage overspill’. The whole thing brims with empty cardboard boxes, garden chairs, cool boxes, gluten-free food cartons, pet bedding and hamster cages. The garage houses the meters for both gas and electricity, which makes reading them a thoroughly entertaining experience – balancing precariously between piles of stuff, squinting into the shadows.
We walked through the hallway and I picked up the back-end of a two-part pool cue – something wooden with a bit of heft, should I need to mount some form of defence. I’m not a violent person, but needs must – and holding something club-like provides a degree of security in trying circumstances. We went into the kitchen, through to the side porch and my wife looked outside. Braver than I, for certain. She opened the door and poked her head out, to find a man, in light blue shirt and beige trousers, rapping on the flaking painted surface of the garage side door.
“Who’s there?”, she asked.
“Oh… sorry, luv…”, came the uncertain response.
“Shut it! Shut the door!”, came my advice. “Should I call 999?”
I’m a chicken, okay. I admit it.
We both walked back through the house towards the front door, glancing out on to the drive. My wife noted the pool cue clutched in my hands, impressed by my efforts to provide some kind of protection to us both. I acknowledged her acknowledgement of my sterling efforts as Home Defender.
Nothing appeared on the driveway.
I walked back into the kitchen, while she stayed at the front. I realised he might have walked around the house or across the garden. It wouldn’t have been the first time someone used our garden as a public thoroughfare.
Then my wife called from the front. The man staggered up the drive, clutching a mobile phone to his ear. Obviously quite drunk, he no doubt wanted to get help, a friend to tell him where he’d gone wrong in his navigation of the local area. I’d be intrigued to know how much his friend’s house looks like our dilapidated garage. My wife opened the front door and walked out to the street, to watch him staggering down the road.
Then we returned to bed, after ushering one of the cats back into the house.
I suspect my sleeping in had a little to do with this excess of overnight excitement. Inspecting the garage door this morning, the hammering may have dislodged some flaking paint, but nothing more. And, thankfully, no signs of emergency urination either. I didn’t fancy disinfecting the side wall of the house.