Fiction

Your attention drifts

A short story about the ephemeral nature of focus.

A shaft of light tracks along your desk and the reflection of it hitting the half-full glass of water that sits by your right hand stings your eyes. You blink away the sudden pain, the light startles you out of your stupor.

That’s right.

You were meant to be working.

Last night you sat down at about eleven, and now it’s, you look at the clock on your computer, 5:46am.

Time flies, regardless of fun.

With a sigh you review the work you got done last night. The word document is still open, and you scan the first page.

The only page.

Ah, not a productive night. But what did you do instead?

You sat down with a cup of tea, comfy socks on your feet, a blanket over your legs. The tea was steaming, you can almost still see the trails of steam rising from it like mist above the pale, brown surface.

There was every intention working. You even flexed your fingers before you opened the word doc, and yet in front of you sits only a page worth of work. And you’re being generous by thinking of it as a page, it’s realistically three quarters, bordering on a half.

What happened to your good intentions? Did you hold on to them too tightly? Were they crushed by the weight of expectation that you put on them, that you put on yourself?

Where did your night go?

Your eyelids close with the finality of a casket lid. You’ve been up all night, you’re exhausted. Your tea, not the first cup, nor the second, nor the third- how many cups was it? Five? The cup is empty, and you don’t feel like another one. But you didn’t fee like your second, or the third, or the fifth. It was something to do that didn’t involve a staring screen and a blinking cursor.

It’s dark now. Your eyes are shut, and you can almost feel the sleep dry around the rim of your eyelids. It will be harder to open them, but you know that.

It would be easy to lean back and put your head against the blanket you keep over the back of the chair to make it more comfortable. A simple thing to do.

An easy thing to do.

You won’t have to think. You can ignore the leeches gnawing at your stomach, the ones that carve their way through your insides, the ones called Work and Study and Food and Bills and Life.

That last one is the biggest; the hungriest. It is never sated, no matter how much you feed it with your productivity. It consumes it all and still craves for more.

But not when you’re asleep.

Oh the leeches might still squirm as you drift through dreams but you don’t feel them. It’s a respite that you cannot find anywhere else.

And yet, you avoided sleep last night. Instead, you…you still don’t know what you did. Not really. You stared at your screen, drank tea. Maybe you read the news or watched some videos – not ones related to work, by the way, ones that caused your attention to drift like an unmoored ship on the waves.

The sun is fully up now. Your cup is empty. You drank the water to wet your parched throat, but it hasn’t seemed to work. Your throat is dry, every swallow feels like an effort you barely have the strength for. The muscles that hug your throat sluggishly contract and what little saliva you can muster crawls down like a slug on carpet.

You set last night aside to get work done which would have left your day free.

But now it’s time to work. You can’t avoid it. You should have done it last night but you didn’t and your day off is ruined.

You’re so very tired.

Exhausted.

How can you work like this?

The answer comes to you easily, trotting into your mind along well-worn paths in your brain. You can’t work like this. You’ll at least need a nap first.

That’s right.

Twenty minutes, no more. Just enough to regain some energy and then you’ll get to it. The work will be done before lunch.

Definitely.

Okay, you have a plan now. Rest for twenty minutes, no more. You even set a timer on your phone, but you set it for forty minutes, because you can’t be sure how long it’ll take you to get to sleep. And after that, straight to work.

You minimise the word document on your screen and see that you’ve been recommended a video to watch.

Watching stuff like this always helps you sleep. And it’s your free time now, you’ll work when you wake up.

You click play.

Your attention drifts.

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