I try to hold her hand and find that her nails are dug into her palm, so deep into her palm that I think they must have sunken into it, that they’re gone.
I try to touch her hair and I can tell that she doesn’t feel it.
“What are you thinking about?” I ask.
“I’m not,” she says.
“Then where are you?”
“I’m getting wrinkles in my forehead.”
“I don’t think so.”
She brings her forehead down to my eye level and zooms it in.
“There’s nothing there.”
“I can feel them,” she whines, and she puts her fingertips to her forehead.
“I promise,” I say.
“I scrunch my forehead when I worry. And I worry all day.” She breaks down, starts to cry on the subway, and I don’t know what to do.
Late, sitting in bed, she says, “It takes me so long to do anything. It takes me hours to clean the kitchen. How long does it take you to clean the kitchen?”
“It’s okay,” I say.
“I don’t have ideas anymore. It’s just a jumble of letters in my head. They’re all shaken up in there. Like Boggle.”
I don’t know what to say. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. It’s not your fault. I’m sorry.”
She takes my hand. She strokes my palm.
“How was your day?”
“It was good,” I tell her. “I got a lot done at work.” It sounds inane.
She snuggles in close to me. She puts her nose in the crook of my neck.
“If it snowed for a week right now, what would you do?”
I laugh. “What do you mean?”
“It snows for a week, right now. It snows so badly that we can’t leave the house. We can’t do anything. We’re stuck here. What do you do?”
I put my arm around her. “I stay here.”
“Noooo,” she says. “Come on. You have to do something.”
“I rip up the carpet on the living room floor. I shred it into fluff. I turn the fan on and blow it around the apartment. It’s like a snow globe inside, but it’s warm.”
She laughs. “I coat myself in egg whites and then dance around the living room until I am covered in fluff. I am the beige abominable snowman.”
“Me too. Then we lie down on the floor. And we make love, two yetis who only know the cave that is this living room.”
“Just our furry bodies against each others’.”
“Just a wall of snow.”
“No hours ticking. No family calling.”
I reach for her hand, and it’s curled again.
“Is everything okay?”
“It is, it is, I don’t know.”
I try to do it. I try to close my eyes and fill my mind with letters, with nothing that means anything, with just the wheel that turns and never stops. She’s crying again. I love her.
word by Charlotte Joyce Kidd
The repetitive letters and the feeling of people watching reminded me of the hyper-awareness, the externalization, that occurs in the throes of an anxiety attack. The thing about loving someone living with a mental illness is that there is nothing to do but encourage them to seek help and not stop loving them. Often, they know they are sick, but they don’t know how to fix it. Sometimes they want help and don’t know how to find it, or don’t have the resources to find it. I spent a lot of time on this piece, because the art resonated with the feeling of anxiety.
colour by Yukai Du