Do you understand?

“I’ve been here two years, but spent one in the hospital.”
A mangled woman presses flyaways against here head. The grease holds them. She sips soda from a McDonald’s cup, but if there’s anything my dad taught me fast food cups are good camouflage for alcohol, so she sips something cold keeping her warm. A stroller, plucked straight from a dumpster (tread-marks, waste stains, holes) disintegrates next to her. Please don’t be a child. But it’s a small dog just as mangled with one pop-eye staring blankly at the man sitting next to her. The things strangers reveal. Pain is a badge, a trophy we hold gleaming in our hands that says: look what I fucking survived.
I sit down. The old man watches intently how I push my coffee mug between my legs. The weather is changing, but I thought I’d be colder. What would peaceful feel like as a temperature? That’s where I want to live. I felt winter in my bones so deeply, I mistook a beer cup stuck in the bushes for a cardinal.
On the train, I check a woman’s eyebrows to see if her shaved head is cancer or fashion. In college, I knew a guy who couldn’t grow hair. We all thought he had cancer, but he looked so happy all the time and we found out it was just a condition. That’s what being different is anymore, people assume you’re diseased.
“Do you understand?” a woman behind me end each sentence like this. “I feel better after one month, but it doesn’t mean I’m getting better. Do you understand?” “If I go back to the doctor, he’ll just admit me. Do you understand?” Yeah, I get it, I want her husband/boyfriend to interject. Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid. That’s how you talked to me sometimes. Like I didn’t
understand. “What’s the problem?” You said apathetically.
We were dying. Didn’t you understand?
Out the window, a dog gallops across a wide open green like he doesn’t. But he doesn’t care either. Look at his tongue hanging there. Sometimes we fight so hard for the freedom to fly, we forget to leave the ground.

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