You think you are doing okay.

You think you are doing okay because everyone tells you that they think you are doing okay and because every morning you wake up and walk the dog.

You know that this is a little thing, but also, you know that this is an important thing.

Every morning you wake up.

Every morning you go outside.

Every morning people see you.

Every morning you prove to the world that you are okay because you are still alive.

That’s all it takes.

If you are alive, then you are okay.

If you are this, then you are that.

You know that this is not fully true.

But you also know that—even at the best of times—you and the truth have not always had what you’d call a healthy relationship.

So you say to yourself Yes, I am okay.

Yes, I am alive.

It has been a year since you last saw him.

It has been a year since he left the message on your voicemail.

The one he left on your birthday, the one that said I’ll be thinking about you all day. I love you so much.

Hi, Kristin.

It’s I, Dad.

In the message, in the background, you hear the dog barking.

She is now your dog.

You wake up every day and walk her and every night when she curls up into you while you try to fall asleep you think of how when you were younger, when you were young, your father curled up around you in bed and told you stories and held you close.

You think that you would give anything to feel that close to someone again.

You think that, but you know that it is not completely true.

You could be close to people, but you are too scared.

There are people who want to be close to you.

But you are scared.

Even so, despite your fears, you have become closer to some people in this last year.

Here is one person you have become closer to.

You have known him for a while and you shared something from the beginning but now you share something new.

You tell him how ugly you are.

Over and over you tell him how ugly you are.

And you show him.

You push him away and make him stand back and you try to show him how ugly you are.

You cry and you grow fangs and you bite at him and you show him how ugly you are.

Your dog barks at him.

Your dog is still sad too.

You tell him how ugly you are and how you are a hole.

You are one deep, black hole.

And he tells you No.  You are a white hole and you are whole and you are beautiful.

You think if he saw more of you, he would know the truth.

But he sees more of you.

He sees more and more of you until he sees all of you, although not at once.

You know you can’t let him see you all at once.

You back away.

You cover yourself back up and you back away.

Here is one person you have become closer to.

You tell him about your life.

You tell him about your life now.

You tell him about your children.

You tell him about your friends.

You tell him about your dog.

You tell him about your brother and your mother and the house that you lived in that is abandoned and has a yard that is now choked with weeds and sits on a hill hidden behind trees, so hidden that no one can see how the bank put a padlock on the door and an orange sign above the padlock that says REPOSSESSED.

You tell him about your life now.

You tell him about your life then.

He asks questions.

Questions that you’ve been asked before, but have never answered.

You tell him how you used to throw up meals.

You tell him about the first time you had sex.

You were fifteen and you blushed.

You blushed like you were fifteen.

You were fifteen and the man you slept with was eight years older than you and told you that you were perfect and asked Are you real?

And then the man smiled at you and grabbed you and asked Are these real?

And you blushed.

You were young.

Everything was real and nothing was real.

The man said You are perfect. You were made for this.

You blushed and you learned, you thought you learned, that what that man wanted, what all men wanted, was to think that you weren’t real.

You learned you had to be perfect.

You started throwing up not long after that.

You would come home late at night or early in the morning or mid-afternoon and walk up the hill, walk through the yard and slip into your house.

You would see your father.

Sometimes he’d be sitting in your bedroom, playing his guitar.

He would ask how you were.

He never asked where you’d been.

He never asked who you’d been with.

You wanted to tell him.

You never told him.

You would say that you were fine.

You would say that you were perfect.

You wished that you could tell your father the truth but you were afraid.

After your father died, people he knew—friends of his, people he worked with, people you had never met—told you the things your father had said about you.

He loved you so, so much, they said.

He thought you were so smart, they said.

He thought you always knew what you were doing, they said, he thought that you were always going to do so well.

He never worried about you, they said.

He thought you were just perfect.

You thanked them for telling you these things.

You tried to joke with them, saying that it is funny that he thought that.

Just look at me, you said, I’m hardly perfect.

They looked at you closely and repeated He loved you so, so much.

You cried.

You cry.

You cry a lot.

Here is one person you have become closer to.

You are afraid that you are using him.

Not for money or sex or attention or love.

Maybe for love.

You are afraid that you are still holding back some of the truth.

You are afraid that you don’t even know your own truth anymore.

You just know that you want to lie down.

You think maybe the truth will come out when you’re lying down.

You want to lie down alone.

You want to lie down with someone else, but no one seems strong enough anymore.

You lie down alone.

You lie down with your dog.

You lie down and know that you will get up again in the morning because every morning you wake up and walk your dog.

You are doing okay.

You are going to do so well.

You are alive.

You are perfect.

You listen to his voice coming out from your phone.

I’ll see you real soon!

If you are alive, then you are okay.

You know that this is not fully true.

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KRISTIN IVERSEN is a writer from New York. She lives in Brooklyn with two children and a dog. The children are hers for now, but they are growing up fast. The dog, it seems, will be hers forever.

She is the associate editor at Brooklyn Magazine and a writer for The L Magazine.

Follow her on twitter @kmiversen

One response to “You Lie Down Alone”

  1. Anon Y. Mous says:

    Wow. Just, wow. I felt the pain, the stress, the sorrow. I saw the scenes in my head, and nearly cried. The imagery here is truly beautiful, Kristin. Well done, truly.

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