There is a small patch of overlap between the time my brain keeps and that of the rest of my body. It shifts constantly, and sometimes gets lost. There are spoonie* days where the two never meet. My brain leaves messages on the paper beside my bed, scrawled out, ideas that the fingers didn't manage to transcribe. My body performs day, performs movement and function, left, right, wears headphones so the brain won't be required to recognise faces, make nice. Autonomic, back of the head lizard stuff is preferable. Wires in my ears, the sign is up: do not engage.
A meeting can be forced, adrenaline called into service. My cheeks burn. It's a short-term solution with payday loan interest rates. Doorstep lenders with asshole enforcement thugs in cheap suits, they always come back. So it is.
The no-sleep exhaustion of CFS is not creative. It is not inspiring. But. But in the small patch of overlap where they cross, body and brain, I write. Lying down, not-sleeping, not-thinking, the words are there, and I write. There is something magic in the few moments after I've left almost-sleep and tuned in just enough to hold a pen, to focus my eyes. Sometimes. Not always. But sometimes, I can step into that overlap where insomnia and exhaustion can't yet reach, and I can stretch it for long enough to start something. Something worth coming back to**.
*spoonie definition here. Capsule def: person with long term illness/disability
**the prison. I will come back, as will the overlap.
With a few moments of screen time before I head off to run a workshop, I want to make a quick record. In a few hours I'll be running a writing workshop in a men's category B prison. Wikipedia tells me that category B holds those prisoners who are judged to not require maximum security, but for whom escape needs to be made very difficult.
The last time I was inside a prison was not long after returning from Sudan, from the compound in Darfur. It was a women's prison, one that had been in the news - it was famous. I remember the very high walls, the series of locking doors, the fingerprints, the barbed wire, the last minute changes that were part of prison life, part of the control. I remember the high walls, the barbed wire, the guards, there to keep the war out. The increasing heart rate when we passed through the gate - some little trace of compound life in Geneina. The two places blended a little, somewhere in my gut, even as my brain knew better.
In both places - the compound, the prison - I was the free person, the one who had chosen to be there and could choose to leave, and in both cases I was working with people who didn't have that choice to make. The inmates kept in, the IDPs forced out (and out and out). There is a thickness to the air in these places, stale like the back of a cupboard. I remember that. A tight throat, the flutter of claustrophobia, the urge to burst out, to run, even if it breaks curfew. I remember that too.
I prepare to go now, and these little memories creep up the hairs on my skin in anticipation of my first time behind a high wall since the last, since the desert and what came after. I wonder if the smell will be the same, and my gut will know the difference.