On Exhaustion

It is not a knot running up and down your spine, and for that I’m glad.

It is, instead, as though you are a rubber band circling the fingers of a giant’s right hand stretched just beyond a state of rest.  The balance is so delicate you can’t tell whether, if the hand relaxed, you’d condense back into yourself or explode outward toward the far corners of the room. (You’d never reach them.  It’s a giant’s room, after all.)

Erin attributes this exhaustion to the heat.  She says, “It’s heat exhaustion,” then lays back on the bed, her arms outstretched, her tongue lolling like those of the dogs she loves.

But I know that the heat isn’t exhausted.  It’s not tired.  It’s barely begun its run through the months of this year, and though it’s pacing itself, it’s a strong heat.  Don’t get too close to it.  It doesn’t play nice with others and it’s hell in a relationship.

Despite what Erin says, the heat is not the culprit.

I thought instead it might be the poisoned girl, she who steals my nights away, who occupies my weekends with obsessive behaviors and who drives me to drink – and gives me a break on the rotgut I rot my guts with.

It is true I’ve seen her for a few years, and it’s true that she’s slowly worked her way into my life like a splinter of gold, something that’s hard to remove and, in a way, you’re glad, simply because it’s so valuable.  And, like that splinter, she keeps you up at night, and not always unpleasantly (which is utterly unlike a splinter, unless you’re into that kind of thing, you sick, sick, wood-molesting bastard). (But I’m not judging.)

The poisoned girl proved a good excuse for a while.  I would see her for a string of nights, three or four, and as the night progressed it grew so that I was falling asleep at the table, and I’d wake to find her eyes on me, not quite disapproving but, all the worse, certainly disappointed.  The day after I’d sworn her off for good (knowing that I’d see her again at the end of the week; I couldn’t help myself) would be a waste, my body like a sack of meal stretched out on the bed, mealworms the only movement I could manage.

As the weeks passed, the months grew long in the tooth, I began to see her less, but my tiredness remained.  It spread like a drop of ink in pure water.  Megan contracted the sickness – because, now, I could not deny that’s what it was – and we would wake together and barely move from our bed.

It was her job, I decided, a wrack and ruin on her body, once hearty, now haggard from the strain.  And it was her strain that was contagious.  How could two bodies sharing the same space not bleed into each other like brightly-colored garments carelessly thrown into the wash?

But with the end of her job, we did not wake up.  Exhaustion took residence.  It began to pay rent.

We thought it would never leave.

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