“The Distance”

20:17 Sun 12 May 2013
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It’s not that I don’t want to listen carefully. I do. I’m interested. I care about you. I’m trying to pay attention, to be present, to not have my mind wander, to not give in to distraction.

But I’m tired. I’m tired, and without my being fully aware of it, your words start to slide by. From being heavy splashes nearby in the water, they recede to mere ripples, ripples somewhere over there.

I see the ripples, but they’re no longer important. Nothing’s taken their place; it’s just that nothing seems important. Like your words, everything else has receded. There’s a fog on the water, chill and oppressive, and I want to be away from it, away, holed up someplace warm and safe, asleep. Asleep, or at least free to drowse, to not focus, to drift without intent. To surrender to the weight of fatigue that’s settled over me, instead of having to struggle to shake it off for brief periods in order to pay attention.

So your words pass around me, heard but not really perceived, except when I rouse myself enough to snag some of them and break them open, break them open to grasp their emotional content. Then I can pull closer to you, to myself, pull closer to feeling something apart from just being tired. I want to keep doing that, to keep pulling closer, but the tiredness pushes the other way. It forces us apart, makes you fade out.

It’s not predictable. Sometimes it’s there all day, but sometimes it’s absent, only to show up suddenly. We could be having a conversation and I might be fully present, engaged, and then the tendrils will start to crawl over the back of my head, numbing thought processes and pushing you away. A dull ache suffuses my mind and I’m not really there, you’re not really there, we’re talking over a ludicrously long table, and all I want to do is sleep.

It’s not the same as daydreaming. Daydreaming is a pleasant summer breeze that takes the present away and replaces it with comforting or exciting currents. There are no exciting currents in the fog, no comfort either, merely stagnation and the conviction that effort surely isn’t worth it.

Some things remain close most of the time. Systems, primarily. Systems that I can perceive as mostly self-contained, so that none of the parts are anything but close by. If every piece is close by, then it holds my interest and I can work with it, work on it. Working on it lets me draw the pieces even closer, and to create new pieces, and to be fascinated by the connections between them, by their intricacy.

People are not such systems. People are wonderfully complicated and demand a different mode of engagement. But too much of the time you’re too far away. Too far for me to hear your heartbeat. Too far for me to feel your heat. Your words are muted, failing to carry over the distance.

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