You never feel worse than when someone leans across and touches your arm, inclined head, and with lowered voice, asks, Are you okay? You want the hand off your arm, but that won’t happen until you answer, might not happen even then. So you rush through the possibilities of how bad you must look for someone to take the time to ask. Pale skin? Slightly fevered? Disengaged? Red-eyed? Do they know? What did they see? Did you flinch during the news? You reach up to your eyes. They’re not wet. Not that. Not this time. None of these things. None. At least, no more than usual. And once clear on that you’re left wondering whether this is just making conversation, or genuine concern?
Fine. I’m fine.
Non-committal. The easy answer. An answer that avoids answering, but easier than saying nothing. The hand is withdrawn, but the touch lingers on your arm and you reach to brush that phantom weight away but – aware of the eyes that follow your movement – you stop, reach down, grasp your wrist. Breathe. Your interlocutor’s curiosity is temporarily sated; retreats.
It is not always a passive act not talking, not telling. Not picking up the phone, and dialing the number that’s on scraps of paper around the house, is an active choice. You tell yourself that not responding to the well intentioned text or the email is for them, not for you; that you don’t want to impose, to overshare, to burden.
And in your seat, and on the rush hour train, you have unwanted replays of moments, your – his – spots of time. No boat stealing, or lake hopping, though. Nothing so benign.
Later you watch the cursor flash on the screen, type. And again you write, another night trying to capture those instants where he became you. But it is not right. It is never right.