Every morning as I dip my fingers into the cool richness of my moisturiser, I smile as I read the SPF on the side of the pot. It seems so hopelessly optimistic to assume that any part of my skin will be touched by sunlight. I shiver as the last drops of water from my scalding shower evaporate off my skin. Not a polite, delicate shiver but a full body shudder as the cold invades. Getting dressed by the light of my walk in robe. Pulling stockings on as my fingers move clumsily, stiff with cold. Yawning as I try not to stab my cornea with mascara and try to coax my belligerent hair to behave.
I stumble out of the house in the ghostly pre-dawn light, jogging portions because I inevitably have left it until the very last minute to walk the 1300m to the train. Breath that fogs and steams around my face, clings to my nose and condenses. Digging my chin into the soft folds of my scarf as I run pink cheeked up the stairs to the train station and stamp my feet to keep them warm, watching the same dance by the handful of other passengers on the early morning train.
There are no rainbows when I reach the bus stop any more, just purring grey shadows and the ever present mist. Grateful at last to climb into the warmth of the bus and to curl into the hard seats. It's still too early and my body protests. My skin still sleep soft. My face, even made up looking younger and half asleep. The creeping cold with every opening of the bus doors keeping me awake, snaking along exposed skin.
As the bus climbs onto the overpass the clouds are pink and orange overhead, the sun waiting to rise, heavy and golden against the ethereally pale plue on the horizon. Pulling into the hospital, slapped again by the cold as the first rays pierce the sky, the closest the SPF of my moisturiser will come to protecting me, as the tiniest bit of warmth radiates through my blood.
Holding chilled fingers over my ears as I walk past the piercing pigeon alarm as the pigeons wander unperturbed between cafeteria tables and eat the crumbs of yesterday before a new crowd starts the cycle again. The smell of the coffee van and the snaking queue of others who are here so early. Never having the time nor the cash to join them, instead waving my lanyard in the direction of one of the hidden swipe terminals and stabbing my finger to ride the lift to my ward.
As I reach the top every morning I turn to face the glass plate windows to the right and feel the newborn sun blind me, dazzled, high enough now to see the sunrise and let it wake me. Let it fill me, let my blood rejuvenate. Know that it may be the only part of the day that I will get to see, experience, before work takes over. The interminable forms and charts and paperwork. I know each day I will need to talk about terrible diseases. To try and give hope where there is very little. And sometimes I dont' want to think about that. I want to think about the way it feels to watch the sunrise every morning. To see another golden start to the day, ripe with promise and to not be able to share.
I love the selfishness of it, of knowing that every day there is a little bit of it that I have stolen for myself. That even if I will not get to go home until the stars are twinkling and the moon is bathing the earth with its strange ephemeral light, and that even if I forget to dream in the dark and heavy sleep that awaits when I collapse after walking up the stairs, that for just one moment, I felt light.
I worked 122 hours last fortnight. 12 days in a row and it just about killed me. My body on autopilot, my brain rabid, frightened and desperate to escape. My 5th wedding anniversary passed in a blur of waking and sleep and falling through the day, before stumbling home in the velvet dark. Hollows appearing under my eyes and a new pallor to my already pale skin. But for a moment each day, in the seconds before I started work, before I picked up my pen and started writing the first of many things, I stood there in the sunlight, and felt alive.