I am exhausted. My bones don’t ache, I lost my bones somewhere in a pile of papers and notes, sitting in a chair for hours on end day into night into day, again, I left them there.

My body is now a formless mass of bubble cells of unknown electricity and spit and blood. Normally I stretch and burn with the snappy, silly, limber power of a musical theater star, but today, and all days in recent memory, my whale eyes roll over, unblinking, flooded, to whatever has attracted my attention over there, and then, synapse engaged, message received, my limbs reach slowly up, steadily as though through heavy thick water, with a relentless tired journey through the weeds and scattering fish, and I grasp my goals firmly and pull them back down to me, deep below, squatting on the sandy floor. I breathe steadily and deeply, but you can’t hear it. I’m not sighing yet. But I’m not drowning, either. I consume the oxygen in the water around. I exhale full sentences and academic structures with three logical steps each.

I’ve forgotten to eat regularly. But I breathe deeply.

Nights, I choke down the lessons of each day, press them down firmly with the dark of the room, efficiently. A lifelong insomniac, I now enjoy the lumps of my pillows, which have long needed to be replaced, stained with time, oxidized, and I close my eyes easily. A few magical touches to my forehead and thigh, light fingers beside me, and I sleep without needing to acknowledge every, or any, degree towards a sleeping state, as I am so accustomed to doing. My lungs, no longer constricted by ribs, expand exponentially, rhythmically, instantly. I rest in coffin position, joints open and long, and I’ll awake later with only my head turned to the right.

Meanwhile, I dream.

I dream of nursing others in catastrophe, of mothers and war, explosions and fireworks. Journeys, lost maps, and myself, over and over, always a new discovery, a new place, and another, and another, positions perpetually re-established, mountains, houses, snow and the sea. Often, my rest is disturbed by the realization that I am dreaming. One half of myself is often surprised to discover the other half in a room of some sort, of peers and professors, wooden panel walls, excitedly and confidently involved in a discussion of theoretical mathematics. So this was the real dream all the while. Blood rushes to my dreaming head. Confusion ensues. Conversations are gently paused and I am shepherded back to the relative impotence and safety of the nursing dreams, chaotic as they are, but filled with smoke and opacity.

I awake tired, I have not really rested, and now I feel even more uneasy. The day already begins this way. The light is yellow and burns cheerfully and small through the curtain. I tap the alarm repeatedly only for the illusion of longer rest, to practice the exercise of waking, as if I still need it. My shoulder despises the early imposition. We are spent.

Walking, or cycling, or dragging, my heart bursts if I am made to run for the train. But on leisurely days I notice that I have no body, my consciousness is simply making its way down a quiet street, spinning around, somehow. I imagine entire conversations with the trees, who freely dispense quite reasonable advice.

I laugh when I realize it, how silly it is. But I don’t laugh out loud. It’s fine to have a small private joke with myself. It isn’t strange at all. It isn’t real, or if it is, it doesn’t matter, as long as I meet my deadlines. I consult the next tree about it. What does he think of deadline? He already knows my query, and is prepared with an answer before I can properly frame my hypothesis, because all trees are connected below the surface, through sinew and root and worm.

This is exhaustion. I am detaching in all but the most important moments: Presentation, paper, presentation, paper, presentation, paper. My brain is a mass of quivering paper cuts. I could cry from this, but that would take far too much time, and I do not have time right now. So I’m determined to weave all of myself into every moment, which is not possible with too much reflection. I’m weaving the trees and their conversations, the water that impedes my arm, the mothers in my dream, the catastrophes and wars, the unknown maths of my existence.

I exist. I stretch, I reach, I grasp. I’m losing my body, becoming very very small and very very big, not in an acute moment of ecstasy but in an elaborate, protracted state which takes place only between my ears.

I reach up through the thick water and I pull things down towards me, steadily. I exist and weave and eat knowledge.

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SIRI ZERNAND MÜLLER defines herself by the people who crowd her bed. She has a dog, a husband, a cat who also would like some recognition, and the occasional prophetic dream.

2 responses to “Knowledge Eater”

  1. I always love your work, the way you turn something indescribable around in your paragraphs. You left me feeling this kind of exhausted. Thanks for writing here.

  2. Siri Z. says:

    Thank you for the encouragement, Nat. I really like writing here, actually.

    How about I write something energetic next time, just for you. Would do me good, as well.

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