Three words

Posted on January 25, 2007

“How are you?”

It’s a common question. It’s innocuous. Often, it’s not even said and meant. It’s a pleasantry.

I felt well enough this evening to drive for the first time in several days. I spent some time with people I know from shul. I wouldn’t say I know them well enough to be friends, but they are people with whom I really enjoy spending time. They are funny and intelligent and considerate and quite often very wise. Someday I’d like to know them well enough to be a friend.

I kept my professional mask, my public face, on during my time with them. It was the only way I could participate. Otherwise I’d be curled up in a corner and that wouldn’t be very fun for anyone. And then, as we were leaving, one woman held the door for me and a few others and I heard it.

How are you?

She was talking to me, and I froze. Three little words, and I was terrified. My mouth kicked into autopilot but my body betrayed me.

Okay, I said. But as I said it, I looked down, away, anywhere but at her, so she couldn’t see that I wasn’t. And then in my head, that critical voice hissed back to me, Liar! And in shul, no less. Liar liar!

I’d held it together most of the day, while my husband was at work and my child was home with me. I managed to only cry once and I kept it to under half an hour. My son asked me if I was still sad because my dad died. (My father, alav hashalom, died almost three years ago.) I said yes because he’d understand.

But I couldn’t hold it back now. Three little words and they cut through all my defenses. I bit my lip, stayed in the shadows, tasted blood. Like I said before, pain helps.

And then I cried all the way home. Tears obscuring my vision as I drove in the dark, thankful it was all back roads, no drunk drivers, no children in my car.

I cried and then I distracted myself. I think I should apologize to the woman for my reaction. I wanted to be friendly, but friendly and crushing depression don’t mix. Mostly, I just didn’t want people to know. But my brusqueness might have hurt or offended her. I don’t know.

It physically hurts to expand my awareness outside of my immediate family and my home right now. Staying in my head for now is the only place that doesn’t hurt. I don’t mean psychic hurt. I mean head-pounding, blinding, migraine sort of hurt.

I just need to hide. And hope that

How are you?

can’t find me.


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