I usually wake for work dead-on 4 am. The second the alarm stirs me, I leave the bed and go for a piss then head into the kitchen. I have a strict regime I abide by. There are twelve minutes. Twelve minutes from when I open my eyes to when I have to leave the house to catch my bus. The journey to the bus station takes me fourteen minutes. It’s a brisk walk. There has to be no delay at all. Once I reach the bus stop, the bus appears within two minutes. There are exceptions, but the bus is almost always on time, as am I for the most part. I’ve got the whole thing nailed. On the clock at the station, I time myself to the second. Sometimes, I make time; other times, I lose it. Never by much, but whenever I lose time, I think of how I can improve my pacing the next day. There are no shortcuts to be found, though, and it’s not a matter of leaving early, either. I can’t cut back on my morning routine any further, and I’m certainly not going to wake earlier than four. Today. I woke promptly as usual but then, strangely enough, fell back asleep. It was only for several minutes. It could’ve been worse, I guess. The minutes passed in the blink of an eye. I’m not sure what woke me again. Perhaps one of the dogs stirred me, or it was something in my subconscious. Either way, there was no way for me to cut back on my routine, so I knew already that instead of leaving the house at 4:12 am, I was going to depart at 4:18 am at the earliest, meaning I wouldn’t arrive at the bus station until gone half four. Getting dressed and brushing my teeth at the same time, I knew the only way I was going to make it was to run part of the journey. I don’t particularly appreciate running because it’s been many years since I was last in the habit of doing so. On the plus side, it would be dark. The dark would shield me. Shield my embarrassment. But still. As I descended the hill chased by shadow, I waited until I was out of the glare of the streetlights until I quickened my stride. I wasn’t running, as such, more like speed walking. Like those wankers at the Olympics. Even though no one was around to witness my random bursts of speed, I was embarrassed nonetheless. There was no escaping it. The pain in my legs was immense, and there were moments when I was close to falling. I cursed under my breath the whole way, and the closer the station loomed, the more I was certain the bus had already left. The time on the station clock read 4:29 am. I couldn’t run the last bit as there were people about, plus my legs were on fire. Tumbling down those last steps of the stairwell out into the bay where the buses come and go, I cut a pathetic figure. Even more so than usual.