By Laura Gianino
“Out of whack,” she would say, whenever they’d ask. And then she’d shrug, like there was a muscle that was twisted. A gear that needed to be shifted. A square peg in a round hole.
“Out of whack,” she pointed, gesturing to her body like it was not her body, but something else entirely. A vehicle that was sputtering and coming to a stop.
“Out of whack,” they whispered, when the chemo failed and then the radiation. When the surgery didn’t get it all and the reiki healings and the herbal medications and the yoga didn’t provide a miracle cure.
When we pressed our hands to sweaty mats, when we faked our way through our best downward dogs, she asked me, with one eye peeking open through a curtain of upside down hair, “Are you feeling zen yet?” Followed by a long pause. Wait for it. “Because I’m feeling…just a little…” Her laugh, loud and tinkling, spilled out like rain water through a rusty gutter, splashing toward the punchline to a joke I didn’t want to understand. She slapped a hand to the mat. Get it?
“Tell me, doc,” she mused, picking idly at a thread from white sheets that pooled and billowed around a skeletal frame, propped up with marshmallow pillows. She grinned and offered the lab coat who stood before her an unnerving wink. “What can you do for someone who’s feeling out of whack?”
Nothing, nobody said. No thing. The void; the absence. The sudden erasure of her. The nothing stretched and expanded between us, until one day it snapped.
Well-meaning people, hesitant people, brash, and pitying people ask me now; earnestly, urgently, uncharacteristically and unwillingly, with wide eyes and sad eyes and curious eyes; with faces that convey all manner of somethings to the nothing that spreads within me.
“Just a little,” I say, with a wink and a shrug. I pause and then laugh, loud and tinkling, before bursting with the punchline to a joke meant for nobody but her.