I would love to have some profound insight to offer tonight. I am so eager to uncover a creative vein and utilise it to turn a phrase and illustrate an intelligent point. But my mind feels numb and empty. Feeling is not absent; I feel so many strange and uncomfortable feelings. They jostle and joust, barge, shuffle about coherently before I can number and take note of them. So much is occurring.

Imagine operating a jackhammer. The deep incessant thud-thud of the jackhammer repeats. You feel the pavement crumbling beneath your toes. The handles shake chaotically in your grasp as you wrestle to retain control. The vibrations shoot up your arms, igniting the nerve endings in your wrists, your elbows, and your shoulders. There is a dull pressure in your head. Each one of these sensations shouts with every thud. Your legs lock stiff and your ears ring as you clench your teeth. This stimulation is intense and overbearing, and yet the very vibrations, noises and movements induce a numbness. Without stability, your feet are floating. The grips of the jackhammer’s handles are no more, and all you can clench are the pins and needles in your palms and fingertips. The dull pressure has dissipated from your head, replaced by the peculiar inability to focus on what’s in front of you. By piling on the sensations, the jackhammer has compromised your ability to sense anything. You are a husk, waiting for your inner equilibrium to recover, for blood to rush back into your fingers and toes. You feel lost, impotent, lifeless, until further notice.

With our bathroom light broken, I have resorted to using a large candle. When the shower is on and running hot, the room fills with steam. The air becomes close and hazy, and the running water is a natural symphony. The music echoes and reverberates. The large candle is in its element. What a sight! The flame refracts in the hot fog, and dances to the symphony. It dances and flickers to its own rhythm, ignorant of the outside world and all its pain and callouses. The flame does not know sadness, and evaporates any whisper of despair. It sets the air alight with its fervent glow. The room is drenched in yellow delight, and I am enchanted, immersed in this fantastical moment. Often, this feeling is stupendous. I get lost in the scene, swept up by sight, sound, feeling. Not today.

Instead, a dense smog builds up, and the room is sealed shut with no exit. It is a box, and I am the cat. Schrödinger turns away, and I am left between realities: before, and after. I see both, recoiling at the latter and longing for the former. But I do not know which to expect. The aquatic orchestra is poorly tuned and out of time. They hit dud notes. They scrape sandpaper and scouring wire across the stiff, dusty strings. The sound is unnerving. The flame appears sinister now, engulfing the room and setting all ablaze. The happiness of the past is devoured, and an oppressive anxiety replaces it. I cannot move. I can barely see. Something invisible, like a phantom foot, presses upon my chest, forcing the air from my lungs until it feeds the fire and thickens the smog. Nothing replaces the air. I am choking.

I can turn off the tap. A candle is easily extinguished. The door opens without effort. Yet the soot that cakes my lungs remains stuck, and I cannot seem to dislodge it, nor can I draw in fresh air.

And I am not even the one with cancer.

Cancer. I do not think I have ever written out that word. Writing it just then has filled me with a peculiar, heart-jolting feeling. Even the word looks funny, sitting there on the screen, minding its own business, innocuous and such. Yet it is not minding its own business. It is not innocuous. It is interesting how 26 individual letters usually stand inconsequentially. Remove most of them, duplicate some, and rearrange a few others, and you have disrupted a life irreversibly. Surely, I have written out that word before? No, it must have acquired a new significance not eight hours ago, the moment that phone rang. Of course, I knew of it previously. No stranger to its plans, I have seen it emerge, challenge, and recede defeated, or at least desist within a stalemate. But never so close to home. That thought seemed impossible. It would be heinous to suggest otherwise, and I will — well, I would want to — hurt anyone who would air such a blasphemous idea. How dare they. I would struggle, and I would stand in the way. I would give up anything in my world to prove them wrong. At the same time, I know there is no one to fight. Fact is fact, and life makes you feel powerless in strange ways.

Ever the hypocrite, I drown my emptiness with a dram or two. It seems illogical to escape numbness by beckoning numbness. It feels as if there is no other way. I know that I will be strong because of this, that we will be strong in spite of this. In time I will better understand my thoughts and feelings. But for now, tonight, I am lost. I seek solace in this self-awareness, for feeling lost is itself a feeling.

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