Most of the time fatigue creeps, other times it gathers force and thunders down like an avalanche. For however long it takes you are stupefied by tiredness and excruciating pain, the worst of sensation galvanised and prowling, head to toe, skin to bone. Cheek by jowl with a sagging sky you barely budge, but a wild force rises – if only you could seize it, harness its savage energies for daring and desire. You know to focus on your breathing, which takes great industry: respiration is fibrous, as if air were pulled from lungs by thickening cords and drawn back in as a last resort.
It passes. You wait to write, comb the lamellae of cognition for imagery and riveting rendition. Words are like battered buttons with shreds of fabric still attached. You touch a few. You sniff in corners. You listen to the news.
A friend rings just as day breaks, greatly distressed. Where are the sails to set, the rams to slay, the crones to cast a soothing spell? The telephone sports a rodent’s tail. You have nothing to share but a two-step on ear-clock, and a piddling drip-feed of sympathy. Your heart jumps up the nearest tree. Leaves you a paper effigy.
A stranger’s solicitude sprung a hospital appointment from its shabby mould when blood tests were ordered and we moved to a new waiting room where fatigue meshed with a hundred patients’ thrum, the tele on, and speakers summoning next in line.
Noise undoes me. One moment I hung on, faint and flagging, yes, but compos mentis, next I was a poppet on a blanket in a corner with a buzz of blow flies for a crown. All I wanted was to pull perception in and wait my turn. No getting away though: I was all ear. In this room where patience and anxiety braid, a woman rose. About to be relieved from biding time she offered me her ticket (166) and took mine (218). Soon blood was taken in a quiet booth, and brain found bearings.
One person’s gracious gesture, her compassion, gave everybody’s plight and foremost mine a guarding sheen, like the gilded seam in a Japanese ceramic bowl that mends and marks, even celebrates, an imperfection. I could only raise a hand in thanks. My gratitude has bells on.
Not even 6 am and you’ve done a day’s spilling: first a glass of water on the rug, then a steaming mug of coffee over the bedstead. Your early bird vitality vouchers must have expired. You think the pint-sized delta in search of an ocean pretty (until it’s sunken), later picture an array of perfectly curved mirror panes with rounded edges (dimensions variable), laid out on a gallery floor; and, suspended from the ceiling, a circling flock of files and folders, wings wide, bulging with letters from the DWP. The splotches of Machu Picchu Ground on pillows, sheet, duvet, fail to fire up the muse once more. Brown! Mattress! Soaked! Depending how tired you are you start remedial action right away or try a snooze while stains seep. You like their smell. In the evening you snort your sleeve.
My iPad screen is gateway and facilitator, baiter and denier. Research tool, market crier, news monger, truth and lies conga, superego offshoot, id infector, outpost gazer, best boast trader, trickler of treasure, snoop-hole (never!), waver of tribal flags. Gigantic goggle on cyclop’s eye. Millennium snogger and petrified. Empowers. Withholds. Connects. Disowns. Displaces.
I want to reach in, grab hold of the nearest thing, be dragged into the world as if it were real.
One hot summer’s day a few years back I ventured past the silver birch, long-haired border-post and footfall-scorer. No better fuel than heat! Propulsion and pacing had ceremonial gravity. I stopped frequently, sat on fences, walls, and parapets; savoured the air’s stillness once the wheezing stopped. Up again and onwards, teetering with intent, and not adverse to feckless frolics around random spots. Remembrance is eminently visual, and indistinct, as if I were a figure caught on reels of scratched, overexposed film. Sprocket holes ticker, and white lines flicker like tinsel hanging from the sky.
When fatigue does its worst memory becomes a draw-well. I’m done looking back (she writes) or too far ahead (waiting to reignite). New digs in the present! Casualties haunt though: plans abandoned, fortunes ousted, friendships lost or never formed – jaunty spectres hard on my heels, eating the dust my tired in-house strides stir up. Cut.