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It’s late and my eyes burn a little. My clock says its sometime after midnight. It feels like it’s always sometime past midnight, but there are journal articles to be read. Things to learn. It’s the third week into my Masters in Media Studies at Rhodes. I’m almost halfway through the readings for the semester so far. One journal article at a time. In the background of the otherwise quiet room, Satellite by BT is playing softly.

I pause to reframe the tiredness. I can resist sleep a little longer. Can still understand the concepts. Can still make the little notes. There is fire left in me tonight to push on. A couple more articles. Tomorrow, I will wake up with my digsmate’s cheeky little dogs on my bed. Shower, coffee, some writing and other work. Then back to the little yellow reader. One more article. One more. I will conquer you all. Some things are more important than sleep. More important than appearances. More important.

[one evening in early January, just outside Oxford, England]

One more article. One more. I will conquer you all.

Who knew the Oxford tube was not in fact a tube. I didn’t. It was a bus, apparently. A warm, double storey bus that shuttles people from stops in London to Oxford. Katherine and I had taken it to the town earlier in the day to visit friends and look around. We walked beside the river. We got lost in a dark forest. We found a warm pub and sat winding down the hours over ale and beautiful conversation.

It makes me smile to remember it, in the darkness of the Oxford Tube back to London. Satellite by BT is playing softly in my ears. Katherine has fallen asleep beside me where we sit on the top storey, right in the front. Up here I can see the skeletons of forests coming out of the darkness. White trunks. Emptiness, then gone. Back in to the dark sides of the road.

There are moments that come – for me, often when traveling – when everything in the world hits perfect synchronicity. Music, the dead, white trees in the dark, dark night. Katherine.

I’m going home soon. If home is the right word. I’ve moved so much that I’ve caught myself starting to refer to home as wherever I’m sleeping tonight. But I’m going to South Africa again. To Rhodes to study a Masters degree in Media Studies. It’s important to me that I do this. But it’s inconvenient.

If it means spending more of myself in my life than I do already, then so be it. There is always space for more when it matters.

Katherine will finish in September. My coursework ends around then, but dissertation writing can take up to the end of next year. It’s inconvenient. The timing is wrong. I want, I need to do it faster. There is a world here, in these white trees, this dark night and this sleeping Katherine that I want to be a part of.

And so I make a promise ot myself as she sleeps, in the magic of this fragile, synchronous moment.

I’ll finish as early as I can. As early as I possibly can. If that means being tired. If it means spending more of myself in my life than I do already, then so be it. There is always space for more when it matters. So help me white trees, warm bus. Last moments of a song, last notes of a spell that is already passing out of magic into memory – you stand to remind me of this promise. Push me when I don’t want to, to remember a promise that matters more than anything else in the world this moment.

[It’s growing later]

Satellite ends. I play it again. There are no white trees here. Katherine is a thousand miles away. But a promise to myself remains in the delicate sounds. I’ll sleep another day. A promise is more important than rest.