This afternoon I felt distinctly the possibility that sleep is a portal. When I awoke from an unscheduled nap, my body scrunched up across the front seats of a car, I had the sense that I was visiting from another part of my life. My eyes had opened to a car windscreen, and beyond it, silent, slow-moving clouds on a clear blue sky. Inside, the ticking clock on the dashboard told me clearly that the hour was quarter to five, but in my disorientated state, the day, the year, my location even, were at large, anybody’s guess. I lay there awkwardly for a while, looking upwards, with the strange sense of being submerged – my view was periscopic, my only horizon the perimeter of the windscreen. As I came to, I tuned out of the ticking clock and into the sounds which surrounded my tin submarine – distant voices, the jangle of chandlery, water slapping on boats…

It wasn’t that I didn’t know where I was, more that the strangeness of waking from a daytime nap had heightened my consciousness, given me the ability to experience my waking moments from another, undefined, perspective.

As I struggled to a seated position, my eyes met those of the man who must have woken me. He nodded a baffled and then apologetic acknowledgement at my emerging head. I smiled and mouthed ‘don’t worry’ through the window, only realising afterwards that he’d have easily heard my voice if I’d spoken. It was only I who felt mute, a visitor to the film of my life – this window was regular two-way glass.

I watched the man pull a black sock over the paddle of a long oar and manhandle it into the boot of his car. Then I shifted my depth of field. In the distance, a glorious panorama – grazing sun on green hills, their velvety skirts just trailing in an expanse of lake – closer by, children in canoes, sun dancing glittery on the water. As I pieced together my life, fixed my position, from the evidence around me, I found myself acknowledging it all with the displaced eyes of my youth, then those of my young twenties, or the woman I was two years ago… then with the knowing eyes and reminiscence of my older self.

Some things were new, others familiar but displaced, like my consciousness. Here was not one, but two child seats, my grandmother’s car, Aunt Bab’s knitting bag, an unfinished jumper and three new-looking books, a battered Sigg bottle, some house keys. I found myself making links, comparisons to other places, other times. My life rather prematurely flashed before my eyes before panning out to the future that might look back at this scene.

Struck by this sensation, this very odd, but definitely good feeling, I started to scribble some of it down on the used pages of a diary. It wasn’t long before I heard unmistakable voices approaching, and by the time I’d looked up there were childish grins waiting at the window. I opened the door and was mobbed with shrieks and cold cheeks. For a brief moment, all of my selves smiled back at me. Then they left just this one behind, the one that fell to sleep a little desperate and woke stunned by this beauty and so grateful for it all.

  • Clare

    Beautiful, Zoe,

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