on a scale of one to ten how sad are you.
you almost say seven but the answer floats in your lungs like rising mud. you shift your shoulders. some part of you is already forming an excuse. that it’s not that bad sometimes. one, two, three on a day that the clouds are out. you’re just complaining about stuff. yesterday you laughed past a brick of a four, does that make the brick come down to a two-point-five. the solid seven panic attack of last tuesday feels somehow like a little thorn, just a regular day full of a gentle three-point-nine earthquake rocking after yesterday’s close-to-an-eight. see but if tomorrow you have a real bad day, it will make today look simple.
and what if. what if tomorrow it’s a big old red eight-point-nine. like one of those days where sirens are going off in every part of you but you’re stuck behind a glass window watching it all burn down. like one of those days that your skin against the air feels foreign. like too much of everything. like sitting-in-the-shower, like can’t-eat, like the tide isn’t just coming in, it came while you were sleeping and now you’ve gotta learn how to swim. like bounce me against a bullet hole kind of day.
you keep numbers like nine and ten way out of reach. those are for the people who really are suffering. you’ve got no excuse. nine and ten are funeral numbers, for real problems, not yours, no. and sometimes you’re fine. and you’re kind of used to it. and it’s not sad, it’s just numb like a television caught on static. numb like i can’t remember if i care about this. numb like nothing works but i can’t be bothered to fix it. that’s not sad that’s every day stuff. everybody feels like this, right? feels like they’ve been shut off. right.
maybe five. right in the middle. like not gonna shoot myself but i’m not wasting your time. a nonanswer. like could be worse could be better. like i need help but i don’t want you to worry even though i need someone to worry about me because i can’t worry about myself. maybe five. but what if five is too small. what if five is too big. what if -
“on a scale of one to ten,” he repeats into your silence, and then pauses. “and please be honest about this.”