#500WED: Digestion

There is not much of a consensus on the average total time of human digestion; figures vary from 17 hours to 72, which makes for a large margin of error, especially when digesting a day. I have a feeling yesterday is still with me, sorting itself into categories to be filed away within me:

  • Things learned
  • Things unlearned
  • Things made
  • Things unmade
  • Things improved
  • Things unimproved

and so on, until they have been tucked away into manila folders, positioned within sliding cabinet drawers, and shut away for later reference.


Yesterdays always seem to vanish as soon as they stop being todays. There is a smoky haze for a while, but that gradually disperses until only the smell remains, like extinguished fire. And soon that even is gone and all that remains is a memory of a smell — perhaps a vague outline of the sublimation process.

I can recall the fatigue, folding my arms into a sheltering pillow for my head that kept the sun at bay. My back stretched in its tight places. The marble counter was cool against my forehead. I remember the uncomforted feeling, the yearning for rest that was never fulfilled, but instead mollified with caffeine until it too was made small and almost invisible, only persisting in my joints where it released in doses when I moved. It was the lacquer over my eyes.


Restlessness always gets caught in my throat, a too large bite that was chewed too few times. It travels painfully toward my stomach, scraping against the walls of my esophagus. I imagine them red. I imagine them as watering eyes.

The stomach receives the mass regretfully, thrusting it up against the diaphragm, putting strain on the lungs. Then the breath comes quickly; the edifices for air cannot fully fill and the cycle of inhalations and exhalations is shortened; the snake eating its tail has lost some of its length.

An impatient finger has sped up the tape. Movements quicken with speeding need. Exhaustion swiftly lumbars in, but isn’t permitted to have its reign. There is pacing. There is panting. There is a consistent refrain of need.


The problem with these yesterdays is that so many of them look the same. They are not individuals, but purposeless clones that stack, one on top of the other, so that once one has made it through, is processed and gone, another is there to take up its mantle.

The monotonous conveyer belt churns silently. It is the long-sought perpetual motion machine, and it contains neither fantastic demon nor incredible ratchet. It is mundane.


What I mean to say is that the interest arises from the present, do you see? It is in the smelling, the careful cutting with knife and fork, the opening of the mouth, and the chewing (hardly part of digestion at all). The rest is instinctive, happening even in sleep; without control, without choice, where lies the value? There is little to pay, after all, for waste.

The valuable machine is active, operated with the strength of your hands. You must first will it to make, to do, and then compel it to be so. Live with it, within it, impart now your desires upon it.

Automation is inhuman. The valuable machine is not.

It’s now.

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