Washing your face with cold water

Getting out of bed can be a desperate struggle. My own journey from bed to work requires a private transformation. In bed I am a congealed, slug-like creature cocooned in the covers. In attempting to get up I devote almost as much energy to staying still as I do to moving, which means that my attempts to rouse myself must resemble the death-throes of a beached seal.

When I finally struggle, blinking out of bed, the first stage of the transformation happens. I shed my skin, the cocoon is left behind and I emerge magnificently: a sickly-pale, sad, shuffling creature. After the first few faltering steps, movement becomes easier but my face remains shrivelled up and my vision blurred. I stumble through the familiar routine navigating by touch rather than sight: picking socks up, opening windows, turning the radio on. Everything is slow, creaking effort.

The second stage of the transformation happens not long after the first. It is quicker but, as I’m more conscious, it is also more frightful. It happens when I splash my face with cold water. I feel like I stare for days at that clear pool of water, cupped in my hands. My arms slowly revolt against me, moving the water closer and closer before suddenly they attack. Splash! Scrub!

And the metamorphosis is complete. My eyes are bright and I feel alive. Now I can dance nimbly around the house before closing and locking the front door behind me. Out in the street I fall easily into the mass migration march to work. With every step it becomes a little harder to imagine myself as the pitiful, slothful creature I was just 30 minutes before.

It does sometimes seem that I consist of two distinct creatures, one dying each morning and one each night so that the other can live; only really coming together in the grumbly overlap between getting into and out of bed. Maybe that’s too dramatic but I often wonder if my fellow commuters go through a similar, daily metamorphosis before stepping out the front door.

Cupped hands holding water over sink

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