When I was breastfeeding my oldest son, there were many nights when I felt as though I was the only person in the whole world awake. As I paced the floor, rocking and jiggling and humming under my breath, in that age-old dance known as ‘settling’ the baby, the city was dark and still, broken only by the occasional swoosh of a car out the front, or a distant siren. Where were they going, those people in the car, I wondered? On their way to work? On their way home?
When I began writing my first novel, all those years ago, I would sit alone at night in my study, listening to the tapping of my keyboard, one ear out for the whimper of a baby. The darkness settled around me and the silence was as thick as it can only ever be when there is a sleeping child in the house. No silence is as deep as that silence. It was just me and my words.
Five years ago, I discovered social media, and the night came alive. I found all those people, the late-night people, who had probably also spent years thinking they were the only people awake in the middle of the night. Suddenly, I was not alone anymore.
This is a shout-out to the late-night people. The ones who respond to an email at 11.16pm. Because they’re alone in a silent house, too, and sometimes you just need to know that someone else is awake.