I’m fine, I say, so good, no complaints—smiling, leaning forward, laughing back. Yes, for sure, I agree, how are you? me too—making sure the light is on, the vision blurred, the veil adjusted. Under it all I am unwell.

You don’t seem yourself, I hear, and I’m caught—do you feel okay? No, but I can’t explain it, I don’t have the words, I don’t know how to say please stop watching, in a nice way. I’m under lights that don’t dim, don’t shut off when the motion stops, only lose their glare when I shut my door, home inside my own spaces, the gravity here different, thicker somehow.

I have underestimated what a life of efforting has done, the bones of me losing their density, my reflexes slowing, the shape shifting not working the way it did. I had younger senses once that used to leap me forward, tensed, ready, now slowed and water warped.

I have spent a lifetime believing in better days earned by hard ones, that life rewards when it has taken payment. I tunneled deeper, lasted longer, and tried endlessly, knowing what didn’t work today would be recognized tomorrow, the stunned recovery gifted with wisdom, esteem. I have always known it to be true, but it’s not working.

Being unwell and saying I’m fine is the longest lasting lie, the endless circle of crops left in fields too dry to harvest. It is walking behind the plough believing the rain would come because I danced for it yesterday, and the day before. It’s not coming, and the sharp relief of this knowing is a cloud breaking revelation. I’m not fine.

I have shown up in predictable ways, in familiar skins for so long, that is true, and I understand I am not the self you recognize, the one you know how to navigate. The being of her is becoming the ending of me, the effort to stand her up straight is unsustainable, a thin ringing hum that slouches who I am, dusted but there.

And maybe, just for today, it is enough that she’s okay.

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