Karl feels heavy. He’s overweight, as he has been for years, but that’s not why he feels heavy. Every part of his body, from his fingers to the tips of his thinning hair, feels like it’s weighing him down. It’s a struggle even to lift his arm to pick up a potato chip from his plate.
It’s not the heaviness of gravity that pulls him downward, though, but the leaden struggle of continuous fatigue. He has been tired for months. He’s tired enough that he can’t sort out whether it’s getting worse or whether he’s just gotten worse at dealing with it.
The muscles of his arms and hands have that sort of vibrating weakness that makes it feel almost impossible to life anything. It’s like he worked every fiber of them particularly hard and they never recovered. They aren’t sore, for which he’s thankful, but they are next to useless.
There are knuckles of fatigue driving into his thighs and calves, relentless in their assault, and a full, giant fist of it residing in his head in place of his brain. It makes it impossible to concentrate. He feels like he’s coasting through his life, unable to focus on his job, his hobbies, his friends, or his wife.
He knows that his exhaustion is affecting his marriage, but he knows it in a distant way, because his mind is too tired to think about the consequences. He can scarcely hold his eyes open if, at any point, he’s sitting. He doesn’t have the energy to spare to do much other than force himself to stay awake.
Maggie must be bothered, though. He doesn’t have the wherewithal to decide whether she’s angry, worried, or feeling neglected. When he comes home from work at 3:00, he falls immediately to the couch to take a nap. He rouses himself for dinner, forces himself to stay awake for an hour or two afterward, and then goes to bed, still in his clothes, because he’s too tired to take off anything but his pants. He drags himself out of bed the next day to repeat the process.
In a way, he’s forgotten about Maggie. It’s the exhaustion at the root of that, and nothing else. She feels like a ghost just passing through at the edge of his consciousness, someone who eats dinner with him while he puts all of his strength into lifting his fork. He can’t recall any of the conversations they’ve had over the past few months, or whether they’ve had any conversations at all.