I lie awake at night. Night after night after intermindable night.
How much sleep does a person need, I wonder as I toss and turn and thump my pillow. Can you die from the lack of it?
I watch the moon, fat faced and full cheeked, slip behind a curtain of cloud to commune with stars I can no longer see.
I heard faraway thunder sneak up because nobody’s looking.
And then I hear the first plump drops of rain. Warm rain, tapping on the windows, with its companion, a softly moaning wind, crying through the locks, like Wee Willie Winkie in his nightgown (will he rub sand into my eyes, I think to myself; perhaps he’s already been: that’s what it feels like).
And the slowing rattle of the fan as the power cuts out with a lightning strike.
The rain falls and the mosquitoes rise like ghosts and singwhine irritatingly into my ear, ‘Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah: you caaaaaaaaan’t sleep’. I swat ineffectually.
And I get up to drink another glass of milk.
An objection to sleeping pills is all very well, but there’s only so much chamomile tea and sleepless nights a girl can take.
My groceries gather on the soft wooden counter of Kaidi’s duka. I scan shelves for inspiration for the merchandise is out of reach, unless Kaidi grants you special dispensation and you are permitted hallowed access to examine the products you might be tempted to purchase: reading with your eyes and not your hands does not apply where retail therapy is concerned and Kaidi’s is all I have unless you count bad Ebay and Amazon habits.
‘Kaidi’, I say, ‘please can I come and look at the hair conditioners?’.
His assistant lifts the hinged counter so that I can shuffle underneath it, Kaidi remains sitting on his high stool, sipping thick black Arabic coffee and smoking cigarette after cigarette so the smoke filters up snakelike into the gloom overhead and top-shelved Ariel is almost obscured.
‘Try that one’, he says, directing me to a hefty pot of thick, yellow unguent, like custard.
Snake Oil, reads the label.
‘Snake Oil?’, I say. ‘Snake Oil!?’ ‘On my head!’.
Kaidi laughs. And I select something benign and familiar and safer.
For whilst lack of sleep may reduce me to poisonous Medusa temperament, I do not want to look like her as well.
‘Can I have a discount?’ I ask Kaidi as my shopping is packed into blue Marlborough plastic bags, because in the Outpost smoking is still alive and well despite the dearth of strapping Stetson-wearing hunks riding bareback through cactus littered canyons.
No, says Kaidi, but he gives me a bag of cheap toffees instead.
Which is something.