still here.

by Michael King

These days, I busy my hands in the deep dig for hope. When this is over, I begin a hundred text messages. We build makeshift tomorrows with fantastic elements –– hugging one another close, sinking into seats at the movie theatre, dancing shoulder to shoulder beneath neon lights.

How quickly, we’ve learned, the familiar can unravel at our feet.

And sometimes I’m too tired to dig. I slump into my armchair, meet the expectant stare of my houseplants, my furniture. I’m tired of trying to find a worthwhile answer to what did you do today?

I held on. In the silence of a month of empty apartment living, the truth echoes.

A year ago, I decided to buy a pair of sunglasses in every color. When I put them on for the first time, I was almost overwhelmed by the way they colored everything. The red pair paints a blue sky pink, the yellow beckons grass, tree branches greener, the blue bathes everything in calm.

I found them all, yesterday, in a drawer in my bedroom. I took them all out and stood at my window, alternating them, looking out at an empty New York City and hoping to see something new.

We can grieve and feel grateful at the same time. We can know the privilege of a deep breath in a warm apartment and still break into sobs that we haven’t seen our family this calendar year. Healing often looks like hurting, a lesson hard-won.

I take my photo to remind myself I’m still here. I share it to remind myself people still care.

There are things we know, down to the marrow of our bones, but we begin to lose somewhere in the midst of the long loneliness. I am skilled at being alone, but loneliness is a chill that cuts all the way down.

Thirty years old, and I can’t help but grieve what feels like robbed time. My eyes grow wet when I think of the after, the wild and hopeful days to come, adventure a daily decision. I take my photo to remind myself I exist here, now, in the days nobody is going to lay eyes on me.

I’m here, brave and shaking, hopeful and waiting, falling apart and putting myself back together. Writing pages to a chapter none of us would have chosen.

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