My alarm rouses me and I lay unmoving on the floor in the chilling darkness. Cocooned in handmade quilts on my foam pallet, I feel the silence of the house as my awareness expands outward from this warm center. Both wife and daughter sleep quietly in their own rooms, living their secret dream lives, as I consider returning to sleep myself.  Burning eyes remind me of how recently I fell asleep the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that. This is my daily aubade, the necessary parting from this peaceful moment into the day ahead.

It is waiting for me as I reluctantly crawl from the covers. Goosebumps prickle my naked skin, as if it breathed across my neck, and as I wash my face in the mirror I sense it just out of frame. For a moment it is gone while I slide into warm clothes, but my scarf reads "This too shall pass" and I find it in the dark hallway as I flick the bedroom light out. Stepping outside, my heart trembles for a moment as I remember its terrible visage from the night before. Then the lock clicks. I drive away and leave it there with everything I love.

*************************************************************

Aubade

by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
  Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
   In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
  Till then I see what’s really always there:
    Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
    Making all thought impossible but how
    And where and when I shall myself die.
    Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.


The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
    -The good not done, the love not given, time
    Torn off unused-nor wretchedly because
    An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
    But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
    Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.


This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear-no sight, no sound,
    No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
    Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.


And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
    A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
    That slows each impulse down to indecision.
    Most things may never happen: this one will,
    And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
    People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
    Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.


Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
    It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
    Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
    Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
    In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

*************************************************************

Five years ago my fully pregnant wife slept beside me as I wound down for the day. Mind wandering, a uniquely peculiar thing happened. For a moment, the most fleeting of moments, I became painfully aware of the inevitability of nonexistence. Many times since that night I have tried to describe the sensation, always ending in failure, because the words do not exist to convey such a degree of remorse and hopelessness. In the intervening seasons of my life, every day has been a reminder of that feeling. The anniversary of my mother's unexpected death, my daughter losing her first tooth, resisting sleep each night only to succumb with a tear-stained face; these all renew my intimacy with it. Around every corner of my mind, it silently waits.

How does one explain? It isn't possible unless the listener has also experienced it. This in itself is stressful. How do I explain why the beauty of this golden dying leaf breaks my heart? How do I explain why the stars make me sad?

And then yesterday I found this poem by Philip Larkin. More than anything I have read, Aubade describes perfectly my haunting awareness. Every line, every word, every sentiment resonates within me. This is one man who would have understood.

*************************************************************

I love life. After a tumultuous childhood colored by moments of poverty, hunger, hatred, and desire, I now have everything. Close to my heart I have a loving family, a small place to call my own, and time to myself. I have heard the ocean, and I have felt the warm summer night. I have tasted the passion of another. I have.

Always, though, always it is there. Behind the smiles and the laughter it waits. And finally, at the end of another day, it watches in the darkness as I remove my clothes and quietly pull the covers close. In my last thoughts, I always pray for another tomorrow.

MORS VINCIT OMNIA