Scary Hours

Revised a closing line from my ongoing poem, adjusting “two hours’” to “I can get weirder on / some hours’ sleep debt”, since two hours isn’t really enough to get me hallucinating shadow people, and trying to fix an exact number of hours seemed an exercise in bogus specificity. Quibbles over duration aside, the statement is broadly true: sufficiently underslept, my brain tips over into glitching shamanic intensity, in ways that might be fun if one had nothing pressing to be getting on with. Unfortunately, the chief cause of the deficit — my baby daughter — provides a steady stream of non-deferrable exigencies. So, it’s been a trippy couple of days.

Intense or abnormal affect does something to time-perception: it takes one out of linearity, into a kind of static superposition of durations. When I “crash”, which happens periodically, I feel as if the current flatlining of mood and executive function were stacked on top of every other time I’ve been in a similar state, as if the state itself were a kind of permanent, atemporal fixture like one of those dream places one keeps coming back to, a house where one has never lived, situated on an alternate timeline with its own bizarre internal consistency. Caring for a small infant does something similar, timeshifting me back 16 years to when I was last bobbing a wriggling, hiccuping, posseting animal on my shoulder in the small hours of the morning. It’s an ineluctably primal place to be in, one in which primate discontents and consolations are fiercely salient. Returning from the cornershop on a drizzly evening, as the light faded, I felt a tremendous yearning for home, a sense that the warm place I had set out from a few minutes ago at the beginning of my errand was an almost impossible grace, a lantern in the gloom. It was like being a small child, tired, not far from tears, coming home to bed after an enervating birthday party. All the street lamps were lit, and all the cars had their lights on.

So, that is my current state: dizzy, glazed, emotionally labile; moving through time as if swimming through treacle. It’s not an unhappy condition, but it’s a weird one: crisply-delineated edges go to fuzz, crackling electrically; formless mists and vapours become glowingly-potentiated clouds of unknowing. A baby infuses the human world around it with something of its own babyhood, just as a visiting deity might radiate divinity; as if the child’s own entry into time marked an exit-point, a pivot. “Infantile regression” may be the essence of the psychedelic (I say this without condescension) — and not for nothing does Bloodborne place a baby’s cry at the centre of a nuclear flash of Lovecraftian cosmic horror.