I don't want to talk about how I am. This is because I don't know if I am okay, and I don't like to be dishonest. You expect me to fall into the synced-up rhythms of how-are-you-I'm-fine, but I refuse. It's not because I'm a hippie, or because I have some vendetta against lying, or liars, or have some extensive Christian moral code, or that I care if you think I'm neurotic or even that I want to share my life story with you. I don't want to talk about it because I don't want to think about it, because when I think about it I have panic attacks and I don't like having panic attacks. They make me panicked. I don't like being panicked. It makes my heart race and I start to contemplate the meaning of my life and whether I'm a good enough person and if I've been working out enough lately and whether my mum likes me and if I've been serving my community in an adequate fashion and how I narrowly missed my flight this morning even though it was at six A.M. and whether the plane will go down or not and whether I should resort to cannibalism if the plane crashes and we're all stranded on a desert island just like people ask you in hypothetical questions that are really not-so-hypothetical after all because the plane will probably crash and I will probably die in it because most people are rather shoddy under pressure but I'm not but I don't like the responsibility of sitting in the emergency exit row. A lot of people like the leg room but I would rather curl up in a ball in a window seat, lean my head against the cabin's plastic siding, and try not to think about the homework that I'm avoiding on this flight, try not to think about how miserable I'll be away from my husband for five days but also how much more miserable I'll be when I return, not because of my husband but because of the dull, grey skies that await me back "home," this once-foreign place we call "home" now, if only because we're so uprooted that the only place that "home" could be is wherever we have a space together, only everything outside that five-hundred-square-foot space feels inadequate, or horrifying, or nothing even remotely close to the sunny, warm, inviting, if a little corporate, city we used to call home, that place where I had finally, after years of searching and fighting and searching and fighting and fighting and fighting and fighting – decided I liked who I was. That was the place where I'd met my husband and we'd found our little nook of stability and happiness and beaches and farmer's markets and sunshine and then I had to go and decide I wanted a career and we moved and in five days I have to go back to that place where we moved, with the grey skies and the cracked streets and the winter that prevails from October to March. I have him, but we're lonely there. It's him and it's me and we're "home" and we're alone. I'm alone, even as I sit next to you on this flight, even in this community of bodies collectively suffering geographical limbo.
The smile is what you expect – the nod and the customary brief response. And because I am tired, because I don't want to think about it, because I don't want to have a panic attack on this plane because then the flight attendant will in turn ask if I'm okay and I won't know what to tell her, either, I'll say them.
I'm fine. How are you?