I'm [not really all that] fine.

oh my gosh. how are you!?

it's a normal, every-day kind of question. a question I've asked myself hundreds - probably thousands - of times. a social etiquette. a modern day, 'how do you do?' and yet, recently, it's a question I've not been able to find an appropriate response to.

my answers used to be of the, "great!", "good.", "amazing. how are you?" variety. but now, now I settle for "okay, thanks." or even worse, "fine.", because pretending to be more than just surviving seems like a lie. even "fine" seems like a stretch some days. but I am. I'm fine. I'm getting by. I'm staying afloat. the water may be up to my top lip, but I'm still breathing. I. am. fine.

at least that's what I tell myself.

until,

- I go to send Kevin a text message - something hysterical or even just completely stupid, only to realise there will never be an answer on the other end. 

- I'm required to document all of my household members (current and past) and have to list my 23 year old brother as if he's still here because, "dead" or "overdosed" isn't a drop-down option. 

- I have to keep myself from calling just to hear the sound of his all-too-short voicemail. 

- a bout of laughter turns into an ocean of tears on the shoulder of a boyfriend who was just trying to be a bright spot in my day. 

- I realise he will always be #3 on my speed dial because, I'll never be able to erase his name. 

- I think about a holiday or family birthday and no longer want to be a part of that sad, lonely table. 

- the simplest things feel like the biggest chores because so much of my energy is already expended on holding it together. if it wasn't for the love of a certain someone, I'd be perfectly content eating rice cakes and peanut butter for every meal. 

- I hear someone nonchalantly reference being addicted to something, or make an off-the-cuf drug reference. because, I'm sure they have no idea. 

- I visit my parents - grandparents - and realise just how fine we're all pretending to be. and just how not fine everybody actually is. 

- I have to drive past the place where he died, trying to stay within the painted yellow lines, pretending as though his cold body wasn't just vacating one of the now-empty rooms. 

- I think about all the times Kevin tried to get help - tried to beat his battle with addiction - only to fail. because, somehow that just doesn't seem fair. to have wanted - and worked for - something with such devotion, only to fall down and never, ever get up. 

- I think about being the only child. left. 

- I see a photo of us and remember him asking, "Nik. why do you always have to take a picture of us?" because this Kev. this. 

but I'm fine. or at least, I will be.