Friday’s vigorous washing and mopping of the stairs in my tenement resulted in me having an exercise hangover. It’s one of my quirks. Some years ago the doctor’s diagnosed me with chronic fatigue syndrome but it has since improved such that episodes like this are, thankfully, a rarity. I’m mildly fit, but fit for certain things – fit for nothing, I hear you say! And when I deviate from what my body is used to – largely fast walking and very slow running – I can render myself into a state that is most akin to a hangover. No, I’m not exaggerating, it’s more than the usual sore muscles and tiredness, its a full body collapse. Fuzzy head, heavy eyes, leaden body, deeply set fatigue – all from an hour’s work out on three flights of stairs. Becoming caught out in a sudden, nasty downpour on my way to catch the airport bus straight afterwards didn’t help. My soggy gallop along Regent Road, an exposed spot on which there are no doorways to shelter, no doubt fuelled my body breakdown. As the wheels of my weekend bag drummed on the paving stones like horses hooves I could feel my body begin to unravel and ask for a corner in which to crumple. Once on the bus, I peeled off a layer in an attempt to dry out. Too late; the combined effects of being over-exercised and over-watered melded in perfect timing for my arrival into Bristol two hours later in a state of post-exertion flop.
I ate my dinner, excused myself and crawled up to bed to watch back-to-back episodes of Masterchef – a television cooking competition. M. arrived with two cups of tea. ‘What are you watching?’ she asked. I told her. ‘Oh yes, I recognise the voice.’ She was referring to the disembodied voiceover; a woman who sounds as if she has melted chocolate in her throat. The programme narrator crooned a list of ingredients being served up on a plate, describing the dish in soft tones as though it were some illicit location for star-crossed lovers to meet by moonlight: ‘pan fried duck breast, duck filled filo parcel, fondant potato with star anise, five spice jus, orange vinaigrette and a crispy egg yolk.’ ‘Don’t you think this is the most boring thing on television?’ M. stated. She had couched it as a question, but I knew better: this was a statement. ‘I like it,’ I mumbled, feeling inexplicably defensive (just like I had earlier in the week when J. told me all Irish music sounded the same and was played too fast). ‘It’s tired TV. By which I mean I’m tired (I think), not the television. I don’t have to think as I watch, just wallow in the comfort of looking at nice shots of food.’ I wondered how to make a crispy egg yolk. It sounds like an oxymoron to me. I allowed my eyes to glaze over as three amateur cooks didn’t make the grade and were sent home. So sad for them. Disproportionately so. Sleep will fix it.
You Are Tired (I Think), By e.e.cummings
You are tired,
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.
Come with me, then,
And we’ll leave it far and far away—
(Only you and I, understand!)
You have played,
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and—
So am I.
But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart—
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.
Ah, come with me!
I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I’ll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.