By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 26, 2016
For a stretch of mornings earlier in February, I kept on waking up around 6.
I didn’t realize that this was happening regularly until it had been going on for a week or so. I eventually realized that three factors were in play.
One was that I had to urinate. A few times a week, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, so that’s not at all unusual. Still, it is strange for this to happen at a consistent time several nights running.
Another was the recalcitrant cat (or maybe there are, or were, more than one?) that has been mewling outside my house for much of the month. The poor feline sounds forlorn, as if it’s lost, cold and/or hungry and seeking help, but every time I go outside to look for it, it seemingly vanishes into another dimension. (I did once catch a glimpse of it outside my bedroom window, so if I’m delusional, at least more than one of my senses is engaged in the hallucination.) The cat sounds off at unpredictable hours, including sometimes in the dimly lit moments around dawn.
Finally — and this was the factor that took the longest for me to register consciously — it seems that a neighbor kept on going to work (or going somewhere, at any rate) around 6 a.m. for several days running.
Now, in many cases, a neighbor starting up a car and directing it onto a nearby public road wouldn’t wake me — but sometimes it will. One of my neighbors parks in his backyard, which is (a) unpaved and (b) on a slope. Because of these characteristics, it seems, the neighbor will often gun his car engine, making enough noise to disrupt my sleep.
That’s my theory about what was happening during that string of days, anyway. But I’m not completely sure this is right.
More to the point, because I’m a stickler for accuracy and precision, even in relatively trivial cases such as this, I worry that I’ve confused or conflated things that woke me up with things that kept me up. Maybe, by coincidence, I was waking up to go to the bathroom around 6 a.m. and then having trouble falling back asleep — which was frequently the case during this string of mornings — because of cat and/or car noise.
Ultimately, I suppose this is all academic. I’m more or less sleeping through the night again, and if the neighbor is going to work (or wherever) on the same schedule, I haven’t noticed the noise.
Also, the cat seems to have made itself permanently scarce. One night, about a week ago, I heard a cat screech briefly; then some of the neighbors’ dogs barked. I think that’s the last I’ve heard from the forlorn feline. Maybe an owl got it, or maybe the dogs did?
In the end, I’ll probably never know. It’s just one of those everyday mysteries that shall remain forever mysterious.