I’m convinced there were fumes – fumes that put me to sleep and tricked me into thinking that I was comfortable; tricked me into thinking that I was driving perfectly; tricked me into thinking profoundly empty thoughts; tricked me into thinking that I was awake. For an eternity in an instant I would nod off long enough to notice the skip in reality and the sudden soft focus with which everything suddenly became adorned, consider it, dismiss it, consider it again, realize what had happened, jerk myself awake and continue driving.
Every morning at four I would emerge from my bed and blindly pull on my boots; laboring to tie them, laboring to preserve the flickerings of consciousness that went out from time to time whilst tying them, laboring to keep myself upright, laboring to open and close my fingers in the order necessary to tie one’s boots. Lack of sleep and utter physical exhaustion make these things exceedingly difficult independent activities, let alone simultaneous ones. I remember falling asleep one morning, sitting upright in a chair, mid-boot-tying. Or rather, I remember losing ten minutes and sensing no more than two seconds pass. I assume I slept. I can’t be sure.
One dimensional thoughts and phrases would repeat over and over and over again with punctuative gaps of absolutely nothing in between to remind me that I was still mostly asleep. It took the better part of an hour to give rise to some semblance of consciousness above the basest components necessary to awkwardly and poorly dress and feed myself. The routine demanded lunch and water packing (something I later learned to do the night before) which also proved taxing on a severely sleep and energy inhibited brain. Often bread would go cheeseless and bags chipless. It was a consequence of poor planning. I was a poor planner. Planning did not come naturally to me. Generally I tried very hard without a plan and failed, and then planned.
But the fumes. I blame the fumes because it seems easier to do so than to accept that it was simply my own fault I fell asleep while driving the hay truck, two miles an hour, and running over the bails I was supposed to be guiding up the loader. Or not fault, necessarily, but rather the result of my own clever base survival processes working like wee raving madmen to pull my eyelids down and reduce my respiration to steady wisps. My conviction was at odds with my body. Not surprisingly, my body won much of the time.
At some point my brother and I would switch places. I would forfeit the warmth and fumes and eternal struggle to stay awake to my brother and take my place on the back of the truck to stack the hay. The world would pause for the sun to rise and in this space between things my mind would gradually come out of its fitful lapses and regard the day more steadily. There would be a minute where I could hear nothing but the soft drone of the truck, the habitual creaking of the hay loader and the thump of the hay bales falling onto the flatbed.
I could feel every muscle in my body – warm, limber, alive.