When you ask how I'm doing, I don't know how to answer.
I mention the weather, how the gray has finally, just today, peeled away to reveal a swell of blue like some kind of hope. The weather inside me is barometer of every fresh pressure.
It's not what you want to know, and yet isn't it? We speak in signs and symbols, trusting we share a common language.
"Later I will try to recall the names of all the places I went, the spaces I passed through and passed through me, their location, their feel, like a gouge in the granite of some northern mountain,” writes Natalie Singer, in California Calling: A Self Interrogation. “But I remember so few details, so much feeling and so few facts.”
Now, more than a year has passed and still I must convince myself: Of course she loved you.
There were pedicures and phone calls, banter and laughs. There was a shorthand of love, wasn’t there? There was, right? Yes, yes, of course. But so few photos. I have no evidence, no photographic proof.
But yes, of course. After the storm and silence, after the thaw, there was understanding. There was love.
I envy those who love easily, to whom love is a given, an “of course.” Those who don’t think, just know. I envy that ease, the key that fits and locks, the tidy closing. No jiggle or grease, no certain angle or point. The key slides in, turns and opens, or closes. All done.
At the nursing home where I work, a small woman with a small voice looks to me with wide eyes: Do you know me, she asks. Do you like me?
My words are quick and easy. Yes, I say, tucking my hand in hers. I like you very much.
"Gouge, the word," writes Singer, "is so close to gauge, as in measure, as in witness, as in all the minutes and hours and days spent silently gauging my own level of comfort, or discomfort. My belonging. Gauging the likelihood of my voice catching in my throat.”
Adele is crying softly when I stop in to visit.
Family, she tells me, her voice reaching for firmer ground. “My daughter doesn't understand me. I would never do anything to hurt her.”
I lean in to give a hug but she waves me away. She will not take comfort, so we sit together in the quiet, each of us holding our hurts. Sometimes, still, I have no words for all our aches.
“Family,” I say finally, “sometimes knows us least of all.”
* Names and identifiers have been changed to protect privacy.