I have an ordinary loneliness. It is so ordinary, my doctor can only prescribe bed rest and fluids. I protest often. Doc, I say, this loneliness is killing me, has been killing me for years. Look how my wrists shrink, how my eyes water, how my lips chap and bruise like somebody just gave me a biting kiss. Doc, I say, the neighbors keep complaining about the whooping noises I make when I am wide awake in bed at four in the morning. I’ve started seeing smiling faces in the toilets in which I have vomited the lunches I ate by myself. For months now, I’ve been unable to speak without covering my mouth with a handkerchief which is glazed with the white, mucous remains of all my cries for help. Doc, I say, I’ve been resting in every bed I can get my hands on and pouring a different fluid into all the empty spaces in my body every month. I’m no hypochondriac, Doc. You’re the only one who touches me and you put on gloves just for that. You don’t think that’s something else?
My doctor is meticulous. He shows me the EMG papers. He shows me the CT scans. He shows me our text message history printed on light paper, dating back three years, watermarked with the address of his office on every page. He brings up photographs of two brains through a projector. He casts a shadow against the wall as he explains. This one is yours, he says, and this one is mine from when I was your age. See how alike they are? He pats my back, ungloved for good measure, and sends me home to brood. I lay my body facedown on a new bed, orange juice pooling in the valley between my shoulder blades. The neighbors are throwing plates at each other. Someone in the room below me is talking in a hushed tone to a phone sex hotline. My sister hasn’t spoken to me in years. I think about my loneliness, which is like everyone else’s loneliness. Our loneliness, I say to no-one at all, is completely, utterly ordinary.