Written by: Alexis
June 2, 2022


She sits on the edge of the couch, putting together a playlist filled with old Matchbox 20 songs and a bit of Elton John here and there. It was a strange combination, but it had been a rough day. Her mom was at work. Her twelve hour shift that had lasted fourteen hours was almost over. The hospital was a needy place, she thought. Her dad lay on the floor in his room, his arm in a sling. His shoulder surgery had gone well but he must be feeling the effects of the anesthesia still. That’s why his head hurt. Another groan and she asks if he’s ok. He can barely talk through the pain but she manages to catch him nodding his head. Liar. She closes her eyes as Unwell starts playing on her phone. She’d give anything to see Matchbox 20 in concert but the tickets her dad bought weren’t for her. “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell.” A door slams and she’s jolted out of her stupor. She looks up to find her mom making her way to the bathroom. She’d assumed her mom would go straight for her incapacitated dad but it seems he can wait. 2 minutes. 5 minutes. 10 minutes pass until finally her mom is done showering. Her mom falls into the couch next to her. The girl tells her how her dad has been like this for hours. Since she last called around lunch, really. She reminds her mom of the weeks before, of him forgetting things and how he couldn’t see his keyboard as he was trying to type. Her mom nods and runs back to her husband. “Soon enough you’re gonna think of me. And how I used to be.”

Six months pass and she’s sitting on her bed this time. Unwell has become her anthem. Her dad’s headaches have gotten worse since he left the hospital. Sometimes he forgets her name and what day it is. He doesn’t work anymore either. She remembers the nightmare, a Glioblastoma Multiforme, a deadly little tumor. She pretends to sleep as her dad comes in. Walking is hard for him, so he shuffles his feet. It reminds her of that zombie show she just watched. He turns on the light to wake her up, whispering something she can’t hear. He tries to leave, tries to walk back up stairs, but doesn’t make it. He collapses. The hallway isn’t big enough for his seizing, but he doesn’t care. He vibrates, saying he’s cold as he curls into a ball. Her phone is almost dead, but she calls her mom who calls her grandma. Her mom is working again. She only has three shifts a week but somehow the timing is always wrong. Her grandma arrives. She can’t find them because she doesn’t look downstairs, so the girl calls to her. Her dad is covering his ears now. Loud noises hurt. Her grandma makes her way to the back hallway of the basement. The two of them are numb as they stare at the man they once knew. “Somehow, I’ve lost my mind.”

It’s been a year and a half since she lost her dad. He’s not gone-gone, but she still speaks in past tense. He says that the spiders in his head are building webs. She thinks they must be the poisonous kind. He forgot that her birthday is tomorrow. Last week he forgot her name again, and tomorrow he’ll ask if it’s Thursday or Friday but it will only be Wednesday. He sleeps all day, but never at night. She doesn’t sleep ever. Her dad starts fights sometimes. Her mom says he’s trying, but she doesn’t know. He doesn’t know, either. He thinks it’s been an hour, but it’s only been a minute. Time really must be relative. She hates it, this, cancer. She hates change most of all, and yet, somehow, she’s been flipped inside-out and tumble-dried. She’d call that change. She turns on her song, her playlist cued up to Matchbox 20. “Hold on, feeling like I’m headed for a break down. And I don’t know why.”

“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell.”