Michael Harding: Trump’s election saw me take to the bed
‘When I lie in bed, unwired from internet or iPhone, I worry about nothing’
No escape from Trump: Cecily Strong as Melania during the “Melania Moments” sketch on Saturday Night Live. Photograph: Ralph Bavaro/NBC
I used to think that life in bed was not a good idea; that indulging melancholy was a waste of time. But not any more. Now that Donald Trump has risen so high, and Leonard Cohen has fallen so low, it occurs to me that there is little else to do but stay in bed and stare out the window.
Although it also occurs to me that it’s a miracle to be human. Especially when I look at the cat. It happens every morning. I open the curtains and there he is; Charlie, the black tom, on the window ledge. And though he must wait until I stir myself, he never gets agitated. He just yawns and gazes in at me. And as I lie beneath the duvet on a wintry morning, listening to the hum of the central heating I wonder is he aware of his own hunger, or his own desires? Does he know what possesses him when he is possessed?
I posed the question to my therapist recently but she just looked very blank for a while and made no comment. So I rise from the bed and throw an overcoat across my shoulders, put on slippers and go to the woodshed with a tin of cat food. Then I return to bed, content that I have acknowledged his invitation to love.
Some mornings I daydream about the joy I will feel when the beloved returns from Poland or Supervalu or wherever she went. And sometimes I wonder if the cat dreams of making love with the beautiful Miss Peabody whom he shares his bed with in the wood shed. Or does he realise what happened when he was neutered? Does the loss of fire in his loins make him melancholic, like the General, who has become sullen in recent years, since his libido declined.
When I first met the General on the streets of Mullingar, he marched about with a swagger, and his lower lip quivered in a state of permanent jittery arousal that frightened women in high heels. But nowadays he is changed. He looks sad and envious at other passengers on the train. And sometimes I have to tell him to stop staring at young people.
Although I too enjoy watching young people. I was at a wedding recently and it was a pleasure to behold the young in their waistcoats and frocks as they danced in the disco lights for hours while the elders sat around the dinner tables on the edge of the ballroom, getting drunk. Young people are so possessed by love that they are never quite aware that they’re breathing, or that time is so short. If they were, they might go off to monasteries like Leonard Cohen.
Young people persist in clinging to the object of their desire, and breathe fiercely. What they love they grasp. And they never cease grasping, and hunting for love; dropping hints, sending signals across the dance floors, testing the atmosphere, throwing a scent to catch another, until eventually they land in the sheets with the one that the universe has chosen for them.
The beautiful thing about young people in love is their facial expressions. It’s like seeing the lights of a ship moving through the shadows to rescue the universe. I see smiling faces on the train sometimes, and think to myself, “If I were dying I could cling to you.”
And so there I lie in bed for hours, considering these great philosophical issues.
And the poor cat on the window ledge knows nothing. Though he turns his head sometimes and looks at Miss Peabody who sits at a distance. She was always more afraid of humans than him.
But even if he doesn’t know much, at least he wakes me every morning and his hunger is an invitation to respond. And to love him is to love the world.
To be honest, I’m sick to my back teeth of Donald Trump on the television. I can bear no more the fury of his face, as he scorches one interviewer after another with bile. And I worry about the juices that may be boiling in his gall bladder as he manipulates his path through every television studio.
But when I lie in bed, unwired from internet or iPhone, unplugged from radio or Facebook, I worry about nothing. And I hear only that silence which Leonard Cohen left in his wake as the fire in him went out. And then my cat’s little miaow becomes like a monastic bell. Inviting me to love again. Which gets me out of bed again. To laugh about it all again.