Leonard Osborne woke with a start. The last words in his head, rapidly fading as most dreams do: What if the best is now past?
The sheets beneath him felt clammy, sticking slightly and abrasing his back as he rolled over onto his side. Tired as he was, the bed was no longer comfortable and he would have to get up whatever the time was. Dawnish light broke through the gap between plain curtains. He hadn’t woken at dawn for many weeks. There had been no need to. He rolled his tongue around inside his mouth. The disturbing and unpleasant taste like wallpaper paste again. The displacing feeling of yet another tiny ulcer formed at the back of his throat. He manoeuvred his body to the edge of the bed and tried to swivel himself around into a sitting position, but got no further than getting his calves out over the edge of the bed before the temptation to lie in the damp greasy sheets started tugging him back.
What if the best is now past? Could he have tipped over the top of the mountain, from the crawl to the top, a pinnacle that may have been reached while he slept, and now was heading down the steep slope back to the sea level of oblivion? No. He had felt pretty much like this the week before. If he had reached the peak of his physical condition it had happened some time ago. Perhaps he had reached a wide gently sloping plateau of mild ill health and gradual deterioration.
Must move my body – he thought to himself. He twitched one foot and then the other. Get the blood cells pumping. Get my brains working. The cold was starting to penetrate his calf muscles, the hairs now raised on drumlins of flesh. A slight motion ground his body over something gritty. Disgust lurched him into the sitting position he had failed to attain minutes before. Lowering his feet to the permafrost concrete floor that sucked all heat from his feet, a feeling greatly relieved by reaching into his boxer shorts and giving his pubis a good scratch, he settled forward for the final burst of contemplation that might actually move him out of the bed and into some form of action in the bleak room. Five minutes of deep bollock scratching later and the light from outside was beginning to look more like day light, less orange tinged by the sulphurous street lights. Perfect timing – he thought. The lights are out. The council has deemed it truly daytime.
With that he pushed himself up to a standing position, and stepped forwards towards the open suitcase across the floor by the wall. His pants and socks were bundled in a turdish pile, turned in on themselves like discarded moebius strips, on top of his casually folded trousers. It is cold enough to wear these for another day – he decided. I am not sweating like in summer – he justified, comfortably avoiding the sensation of slipping his feet into biscuit like fresh socks, but ignoring the slight crust on the sole of one, where he must have stepped in something dropped on the kitchen floor the night before. He briefly contemplated turning the pants inside out, but something of its rebelliousness dissuaded him, and he slipped off his sleeping boxer shorts with their gaping fly and slid up the underpants which would cradle him gently for the rest of the day. More gently, for they had lost some of their springiness through the previous day’s exertions. Now for trousers, to stem the rapid flow of dwindling warmth from his bristling legs into the heat death of the bedroom. Fibres tugging at hairs they were up. The pockets, containing his wallet and mobile phone had flipped around his thighs. Lenny had to take the seat down again and readjust the pockets so they were accessible and didn’t make his hips bulge.
The light was growing with such force it might almost open the curtains on its own, desperate to enter the room and rampage over anyone who dared to ignore the days fearsome birth. I must not stop – Lenny thought to himself reaching over to the shirt wrapped over a coat hanger hooked onto a nail that had protruded from the wall since he moved in to the room. The cold sleeves sheathed his arms. He un-tucked the once stiff collar and buttoned the shirt down from the second to top button downwards. Tucking the shirt into trousers required once again undoing the belt, button and fly giving enough room to half smooth the shirt tails between his legs and the inside of the trousers. Doing the belt back up he tucked the free end into the loops with a finality that said, I am dressed now. All I need is shoes.