For a long time, I went to bed early, always reluctantly, grumbling, cursing, and dragging my feet. The time to go to bed was suffering, a break from life, a phase that nothing or no one would ever convince me to accept. Why these thousands of hours spent dreaming while the true ghosts still haunted the hallways of our home? This senseless moment of going to bed put an end to a quest, a procession, a fight before a killing. I detested this moment in the deepest part of my being and I dreaded it also as an unalterable sentence.
Ten-year-olds are not serious. Adults always think it stands to reason the oldest is right. Reason makes you reasonable, a reasonable person obeys, and obeying satisfies your parents.
For a long time, I went to bed early, like a release. Exhausted by fatigue, my muscles tired out from working too much. My mind encumbered with a thousand repetitive tasks, I then begged sleep to take me quickly, I gave myself over unconditionally. I wanted to forget everything. The nights were too short to rid my body of the odor of coal and the burden of labor.
Twenty-year-olds aren't always happy. They must accept the rule that the strongest prevails. The rule of the mine owners. The workers down below have neither the time nor the strength to decide when they will go to sleep.
For a long time, I went to bed early, under rough sheets, flat on my back. Pain is part of the family now like my companion and child. Always starting up again — work, soup, bed. Life flows through an hourglass that will never be turned over. The days disappear leaving much more sweat and blood than joy and laughter.
We're done waiting for better things from the years to come. The rich have produced more rich, the miners more miners, and thus it goes. The firedamp continually attacks those down below.
For a long time, I went to bed early, with the promise of dreams to come. Dreams to forget the harshness of life, dreams of a better world. These pipe dreams turned into nightmares when the reality of bright dawn announced the severity of the coming day. The unstoppable truth of waking then dispelled all my dreams.
And one day, desires become vain. Life becomes mechanical, and hopes are no longer even disappointed, but have simply disappeared. The days are strung together, all the same, making what cannot decently be called a life.
For a long time, I went to bed early to avoid thinking anymore about my son who will never come back up into the daylight, my wife whose fingers won't graze my skin anymore. Let sleep come with its bottomless well of forgetfulness, let it make despair disappear, at least for a moment. The pain of the body is nothing but a distant friend — there is only this pain torturing my soul and eating away at a few remaining traces of humanity, leaving only sadness and bitterness.
Some wanted to change things, to rewrite the rules of the game. The militia, aligned with the side of the strongest, fired. The miners went back down again, the firedamp is less cruel. The rich didn't tremble; they knew they were right.
For much too long a time I have been going to bed early. I'm going to stay up tonight, I will fight to remain conscious. From my old, bony body I will extract all the memories, brandishing them one by one. I will revel in them, I will burst out laughing and become drunk on these vestiges. I will look at my stained hands, I will listen to them tell me of the hard handles of the tools and the tons of ore ripped from the earth. I will contemplate one last time the portrait of those dear to me. I will surely cry. Then I will be able to die.
And for the first time in my life, I will rest under the ground.
Translated by Kate Deimling