SecondOrderFatigue

SecondOrderFatigue
The Tired Dancer: John Reinhard Weguelin (1879)
"I live right up close to that edge."

I've been dog tired before, and bone weary, and sick and tired plenty of times, but I confess to feeling even more exhausted this time. I've put my time in on the factory line, twelve endless hours performing the most mindlessly repetitive motions, but that was nothing in comparison to this subtle sickening feeling. This endless evening in isolation might do the infamous Chinese Water Torture proud for how it cows and humiliates me. Born into a land firmly believing itself to be both proud and free, we're forcibly humbled before an utterly invisible enemy which steadfastly refuses to show itself. Many have already come to believe that this was always an imaginary foe, and every countermeasure an humiliating over-reaction, like fleeing from shadows vaguely flickering on our cave's moist wall. Before each fall came a clear call insisting all was well after all, that we had little to fear beyond an evidently irrational foreboding, and we set to no longer flee from that. Once contracted, there would be no fleeing backwards, back into the SecondOrderFatigue which so convincingly misleads each to presume an invulnerability never evident beforehand. Once infected, we'd experience fatigue for a wholly different reason.

I try each day to reinforce what I fancy to be my protective reasoning, for, like Robinson Crusoe's Man Friday, I feel as though I've been stranded three years, alone on some desert island and subsisting on goats.
So far uninfected by the virus, an equally insidious contagion stalks each of us. I slink past my former haunts, mumbling to myself that I dare not enter there. I do not feel scared exactly, just wary. I'm a walking wariness as I pass where I used to just casually enter, buy a cup, and retire to a semi-public table to write my guts out for an odd hour or so, bootlegging the wi-fi with all the convenience of home. I imagine ordering something online then fetching it, but the user interface asks unanswerable questions and I eventually let that notion fade away, though the desire behind it never fully extinguishes itself. Each unperfected interaction leaves residue as if on my boot soles, worsening my traction. Inside, I feel hardly a fraction of my own presence, let alone anyone else's.

I retain at least infinite choices, though each one seems so unattractive. I fear that I must have been wasting my time through most of the day, but I cannot seem to imagine any other way to pass this time away. I usually invent a reason for at least one excursion, taking the same familiar route, the road to town has grown to seem simply an extension of my sequestration, a hundred former possible destinations reduced down to a single overly-familiar one. It's a bonus when I notice that I need to stop for gas, for that's become a blessed interruption in the sameness, even though I still need to wear my mask and limit my interactions to asking the clerk for the receipt. I sneak in a greeting and a casual-seeming question and receive a spot of difference in return. I learn that the homeless have been trashing his dumpster again. I move on too quickly to later believe that I probably even actually visited. The news acquired, unworthy of sharing with anyone, even The Muse.

I spend most days confused, aching to reach out but without an obvious object of attraction. I've been lonely before, but never so utterly forsaken. I've taken ample tribute from everyone I've known, leaving their fare share of my own in return, seemingly without learning the barest first thing about interaction. No place to go, no place to really be, I reveled at the opportunity visiting my optometrist afforded me. Arriving, my first scheduled appointment in ages or longer, I was met at the door and directed to sign in, to answer a few suspicious questions in writing, then to submit to a harmless temperature-taking. Dr. Joe, whom I'd imagined I knew before, greeted my masked face with one of his own, and so the conversation seemed splintered and thin as the examination began. He said that he'd shake my hand if he could as I left, but we both knew that he couldn't. I wandered back to The Schooner feeling even a little more hollowed out as a result. It's nobody's fault. Just the way things are now.

The now stretches into obvious infinities, and consequently time seems to have lost much of her former meaning. No longer an investable asset, it slips through my fingers like a gambler's spare change, hardly wagered, nothing much gained from so briefly holding it, no handle on it anymore. Mornings promise nothing, breakfast just another meaningless chore. I might later realize that I'd forgotten to eat something, though not through obvious physical sensation. I'll notice noontime coming and start wondering what lunch might hold in store before realizing that I'd forgotten breakfast again, or I might not notice until it's almost suppertime. I'll prepare something though I know nothing will taste the same as it used to. I'll consume little. Look, I well understand the liberation one feels when finally conceding victory as if it weren't a defeat. I, too, ache for what I'd so recently known as normalcy. I could any day, any hour, any minute just admit that I'm done, that I've wrung every drop of self-discipline out of this one and just go on as if nothing very much was threatening. I'm not quite there yet, but I live right up close to that edge.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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