Maybe Not Maybe

It’s okay. I’m alright. It’s alright. I’m okay. Whatever the case is, things are back to normal. Stasis. Both ends of the see-saw are now in the air. I turn in my sleep, and my stomach turns with me.

The past few weeks have been illuminative. I’ve figured out how to work without working and think in scripted shorthands — text friendly, tag friendly, form it and send. It’s easier than I’d anticipated. It’s damn hard work. I leave home with a smile on my face and come home with a smile on my face but my eyes drift to my inbox even when there’s no screen in front of me. Refresh. Wait. Answer. Repeat.

But all of this has been ancillary, even though it’s been immersive and exhausting and exhilarating all in equal measure. I keep up as fast as I can but my mind invariably trails, if just by a heartbeat, a hummingbird’s buzz snipped into two, a grain of rice in a sandy stretch of time.

I looked in the mirror last Wednesday and sucked in my cheeks and felt the hollows of my face sharper than they’d ever felt before. Suppose that’s bound to happen, when your stomach decides it doesn’t want anything in it, when your blood thickens and churns and sits in your every ache. The edges of my joints sharpened as my skin shrank inward, and every step I took was on a tightrope; teeter, totter, keep your arms out and you might not fall. Look forward. Look up. Close your fists, clench your teeth, and pray that your foot lands.

The thing about reality is that it’s always there, or at least some form of it is. But within this environment, everything that could ever happen is happening to you, things unspooling their true forms in whatever ways they’re bound to unfold. I thought I knew my reality, but seeing a sign in its starkest form wasn’t enough to knock me off my feet and into my bed for a week. My body had to physically reject the news, dispel what it hoped was its ill over and over and over again, before I saw clearly what was happening, what was really, actually, happening, oh god it’s actually happening and what am I supposed to do

and I went on like nothing quite was wrong. It wasn’t a full charade — I couldn’t pretend, for example, that I was anywhere well enough to get on a bus to work, but I could pretend that this was a surprise, that I was wholly, woefully, unprepared.

I wasn’t. I knew, I knew I knew, but I didn’t know, not until I looked in the mirror and clutched the edge of the sink with my hands and watched tears roll down my face and wondered where they were coming from, until my boyfriend rested his head on the slope of my shoulder and sighed, his breath curling at the end like a trail of smoke, his mouth forming words that just sounded like sadness to my ears.

The “best” thing about being sick is that everyone is nice to you, nicer than you ever could’ve imagined. I know I’m not friends with a pack of scavengers, but to see how far they’d go to me, how present they were there for me, actually augmented how poorly I felt. I was a waste and they were going out of their way to make sure I wasn’t rotting on the edges and I was so grateful, am so grateful, that they cradled me, coddled me, held my head up for me even while I was prepared to curl up and disappear forever.

But it was stupid of me for being so unprepared in the first place. “I didn’t know” doesn’t make the physical hurt any less real or the eventual outcome any less… whatever it is, which I still don’t know, who knows, who could know, what’s this sort of thing really all about anyway???

Anyway, I’m better now — been spending the past couple of days gorging on everything that would’ve ended me just a few days ago. The taste of ribs has always been sweet but how sweet they are now — I’m usually not the kind to cry when I bite into roasted animal flesh but dammit, I cried. You would’ve too.


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