An hour before we were to entertain our guests, she told me she was ill. The symptoms were showing up all day, really; very little sleep, stubbornness, general crankiness. She said it would pass by dinner, so I began to prepare it. I checked in on her when I could, but by myself the cooking was not going well. With so many dishes to make, I ended up being late for an undercooked dinner, and when I told her it was ready, she said she was much too ill to eat.

There was no such illness. If a nurse had examined her, there would be no fever. No infection, no upset stomach, nothing. The illness was a relationship that she couldn’t get used to. She was so accustomed to being alone that trusting anyone left her uneasy. The feeling of falling, the feeling of one day being hurt; these were her fears, and by what they were, she suffered them only because she wanted something that she didn’t know she didn’t want at all.