How do you feel?

Pretty shitty.

How are you holding up?

I think I’m okay. Good friends help.

Let me know if you need to talk.

If I need. If I know I need. I know love, I think, and sadness. I know hope. I think I knew a future, a maybe one, and I know I still think it. Can’t think it.

You gotta stop looking at it that way, man. It’ll drive you nuts.

What could have been? What would have been, always debated. Again and again, the future and now, and tears, but only hers.

How are you feeling?

I work past five to keep momentum. Proofing an anthology and learning Photoshop until the other five, the a.m. five, because the morning is hardest. No reason to get up, no need to work, to exercise, to have fun. How do I have fun? Respond to an email, and another, and another, and slip back into work until midnight.

You processing stuff or are you distracting yourself?

You know damn well what I’m doing.

Do you need to talk?

Am I afraid of finding anger? Sorrow? Heartbreak tears and a depressed spiral? I am afraid, aren’t I. Of what?

I’m sorry about what happened.

I’m sorry, too. And I’m relieved. I am relieved. And crushed, and hurt and hopeful and hopeless. And. I am and. What else will I find in this dry sandbox, mashing my fingers through lifeless feelings?

You were pretty serious, weren’t you?

Can I be? The capacity for it? The drop-in-your-gut, fingers-shaking seriousness of poems and movies and truth and God? I know I’ve been serious. Deaths, and even the cat’s death. The time I learned about that, and all those ballooning loves that stretched late-night ribs and lungs during a circle of prayer, or a high, or the mountains. I felt those. Really felt. When was the last time I really felt?

How are you feeling?

The prefrontal cortex finally develops in the mid-twenties. Self-protection supplants invincibility, and the joy goes out of the world. The grief, too? The hope, the jealousy, the fear? I want pure, deep rivers, not this stagnant swamp of disillusion, rationality, complexity.

Don’t ignore it. Live in it. You can learn from it.

Live in what?

It’ll take time, man. These things take time.

But what if it doesn’t? What if it didn’t? A long drive home and a wasted day, and a song sadder than it used to be. Why isn’t there more? Am I burying so deeply? Or will it come later, like an avalanche after an echo. I’d like that.

I’m sorry. I know how hard that is.

I am afraid of finding the floor in that sandbox. I am afraid of relief, and of heartbreak, and of callousing, but mostly, I think, of transience. A few fleeting feelings, vagrant just long enough to get recognized, then to skip town without a name. Is that all I get? A blurred lens? Music played through a pillow? Wool gloves on skin? I want more.

How’re you holding up?

I’m afraid.

How do you feel?

Like a skipping rock.

How’s it going?

Okay. Just okay. Just okay.

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