‘In Springtime’

I had been feeling sluggish in all sorts of ways, and it wasn’t because of the weather. As always in April, the sky was bright grey from dawn until five, and there was a wet kind of warmth in the air that never seemed to clear.

Under normal circumstances, it would have weighed heavy on my eyelids, my hips, my finger joints. It would have made it even harder than normal to type. But despite the conditions, I had been submitting even more copy than normal: five articles that week, and three more in the works.

I put the tiredness down to hangovers, to lack of exercise, to getting older. It would pass, I told myself. When I wasn’t at my desk, any movement was exhausting. I walked with a stoop, like a shackled circus bear staggering out of its cage. With each shallow breath, my ribcage barely moved. The air around me was squeezing me in its grip; pressing me into myself. My trousers began to drag on the floor. In the supermarket, I had to ask someone to reach the detergent from the top shelf.

My cupboards became an alphabet: dark jars of supplements jostling for the front spots: iron, B6, B12, D, ZMA, magnesium. My days were punctuated by hydration and tablet regimes; my weeks by blood tests and appointments.

And all this time I continued to write furiously, better than I ever had before. I didn’t just meet deadlines, I delivered days early. I wrote about the demise of rural train lines, about the coastal plants found where puffins nest, about the ten best gradual tanning moisturisers, about European subsidies for livestock feed. I was a machine.

The first of May was a clear, sunny day, and the colour had come back into the sky. It had rained solidly overnight: the last of the April showers, I hoped. I shuffled into the spare room, eased myself into the chair, and eagerly began to type. But what appeared on the screen was not a sentence. It was not even made up of words. Just a string of jumbled letters. I sat up, feeling suprisingly erect, and realised there was no longer any weight surrounding me. I could inhale deeply. The air felt light. And with the morning sunlight beaming across my cheek, I began to laugh.

In springtime