July 8th – The Sleep Out

It’s been happening for a couple of days, but tonight things are hot enough that more than the more pioneering folks will be out in the City’s parks tonight, attempting to get a good night’s sleep in the marginally cooler air. There is a science to this; the transpiration of the trees, the shade they provide during the day, and the relatively low thermal conductivity of plant matter compared to concrete and asphalt means that the temperature in the parks can be as much as two or three degrees lower than in the streets, lower still than the inside of homes where a breeze cannot reach so easy.

For some, a sleeping bag or even a sheet on the parched grass is enough sweet relief from their stuffy bedrooms, and slowly as the night goes on you will see them wander through the streets, down from the nearby buildings, almost somnambulant from fatigue, and almost immediately crash out. Some Buentoillitants are more picky about their sleeping arrangements, or simply more prepared for the eventuality. There is a couple who live a couple of blocks over from Revolution Park who use a winch-and-pulley system to get their impressive kingsized bed out of their window and into the park. Most folks are a little less rigid about how they sleep, but plenty of people go to the effort of dragging out a mattress. Some are prepared enough to have slung hammocks out of the trees, or between lamp posts.

There’s obviously a trade-off in terms of comfort between your bedroom and the park, but it seems that many people prioritise temperature over other disruptions. Many folks will bring out alarm clocks to ready themselves for work, and whilst most people start work in Buentoille at 9am, they all seem to need fractionally different times to get ready. Anyone sleeping near a baker will be cursing as they get their morning bread, as most bakers start their shifts at about 4am. The strange novelty of the situation often leads to groups of people sat up whispering to each other, though in their defence they do try to keep quiet and most of the time they are too tired to stay up too late. There is an unspoken rule that if you’ve been out drinking you can’t traipse through, or conduct a loud conversation on the edge of the park; most Buentoillitants are quire considerate.

Of course there are other disruptions: the lamplight, the near-full moon, the occasional scream from someone who had a moth land on them or a spider run past them. Children are often difficult to calm down in unfamiliar surroundings, with all these strangers about, and babies can be an unmitigated nightmare, especially with new parents who don’t yet know the esoteric tricks of child rearing. For the children, at least, there are some solutions: at 8:00 tonight there will be a communal bedtime story conducted by a group of parents, especially designed to get the more mischievous children to calm down and sleep.

The weirdest part of the whole thing for most people will be tomorrow morning, when they are awoken by the early sun and will wonder for a moment why they can hear a stranger snoring nearby, before the events of the night come back to them. The sleeplessness of those frustrating moments indoors before you made the rash decision to come out here is almost the inebriation to this strange hangover, with its aching joints and hay fevered nostrils from a night lain on grass with little more than a bed sheet. But what a beautiful hangover; the morning light broaching the tops of buildings, hammocks neatly swaying in the breeze, someone stretching like a cat, the relief of sleep etched into the faces of your new neighbours.

And yet that beauty is tinged, tainted even, for some. There is a reason that donations to the Buentoilliçan Foreign Social Fund are raised substantially today and in the following few days as the heatwave inevitable continues: for many years sleeping in Buentoille’s parks would not have been a choice for some, and in places like Litancha with more barbaric systems of governance, sleeping outdoors is a daily reality for many, in far harsher weather conditions. Thankfully, since the Revolution nobody has had to sleep outside if they don’t want to. Those Buentoillitants out in the parks tonight will be doubly thankful for their homes as they walk back to them in the early morning light, thinking of the shower.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of The Lamplight Children
  • The Bustling Walk of Saint Friam Day