Normal interactions feel very odd right now.

It’s almost as though I’m two beats behind any conversation, and I always respond inappropriately. I feel gawky and awkward, like a small child being lost in the conversations around me. Either my laughter verges on hysteria, or something strikes me as irrevocably sad. The longer the conversation, the more challenging it is to keep up the facade–I’ve made it into sort of a game with myself. Can I make it, I think, as I parrot phrases. Or am I going to fail at this game? When my voice breaks, I grab for a thin thread of normality and hold onto it until I am lead out of the maze.

Last night, there was a poetry reading outside work, because it’s first Friday, and apparently some people like poetry enough to write it, and others like it enough to come and hear people recite it. It would not be entirely fair of me to say that I categorically hate poetry, but it’s not something which, in general, I am fond of. I’ve read some beautiful poetry, glorious writing that reaches for my core, but the majority of it is something I can live without.

And they were loud. Oh, how loud they were. I cringed in my chair, hidden behind the window, and tried not to listen.

Then there were the drunk ladies, when I dropped into the Headlands for the voices of friends, so brassy and alive and full of themselves. I flinched as they shrieked. We left, and sat on my living room floor for hours, sometimes saying nothing at all.

But working in public service is perhaps the most difficult. To listen to customers babbling on about things that seemed very inane and trivial to me, to paste a wan smile on my face and sit on my hands so I don’t wring them, to answer a phone cheerfully–these are interesting things to do. Interesting because I understand at the heart that things go forward, onward and upward, further up and further in, but interesting also because I struggle with myself. I’ve never been one for the social graces, and what little rudiments of polite conduct I have tend to leave me under stress. I must carefully map out each interaction, in order to anticipate and avoid potential pitfalls.

Everything I ate on Thursday and Friday came back up, and by Friday night I was feeling dizzy and faint, which were not adding to my overall effectiveness. Several times I was forced to leave my post to choke in the bathroom, to vomit water because that’s all there was left. And yet still I went to dinner, and found it oddly enjoyable. How like a traitor I feel to say that, but it was enjoyable. For two hours I forgot myself, and Nick’s food was oddly healing. At one point during the appetizers I thought I’m not going to make this, I need to go and vomit and say I’m sorry but I can’t say, and I forced myself not to get up, the gorge rising in my throat, and I took a hasty sip of water and I said you need to eat, damnit, and it might as well be good food. And the feeling passed, and each leaf of my salad suddenly felt alive and crisp, raw inside me. When the smell of wine made me nauseous, I dug my nose into my pear cider and inhaled the dry rich fall-ness of it.

I struggled greatly with the choice of entree. The very thought of meat made me feel ill, but so did the thought of a rich creamy pasta. Tofu, with its pale blockiness, wasn’t terribly appealing either. I ended up eating seared rare albacore, something from the sea. The texture made me feel queasy, until Jaimi pointed out that it tasted like organic gummy bears to here. I’m eating organic gummy bears, I told myself, not flesh. So that’s all right then. The fingerling potato and grilled asparagus salad tasted like a small moment of heaven as I ate them, the vinaigrette tying it with my green salad in my mind. The potatoes were soft and gentle, perfect.

I didn’t feel up for dessert, a state of affairs highly unusual for me. But I was more pleased that I ate all my food, and that it stayed eaten, and I felt stronger and more whole for it. Alas, seared rare albacore is probably always going to taste ashy and foul in my mouth now, but ruining a favourite dish for myself was worth it. I couldn’t say my waitperson’s name, and I hope that is something that shall pass, too, with time. Normally I find her name quite lovely, and pleasing to the ear. And it is hardly her fault that the word which is her name is temporarily soiled for me, bitter like an unwashed green and sour like the feeling which lurks in my throat. For food which makes me eat when even the very thought of food makes me regret living, I must thank Nicholas. For table conversation that reminds me of all the worthy reasons for going on, I must thank my dinner companions, and Jaimi, though I am surprised at myself for facing her cold and unflinching when we discussed the scent of burning flesh. Perhaps this, too, was a challenge to myself.

But maybe I have already passed the greatest challenge, the one of getting up in the morning, and living. This is a hard thing to do, sometimes, but when I have three creatures relying upon me to do just that, it becomes automatic. But now I think I’m going to go be sick for a bit.