The Art of Being Not Quite Fine

Angelina Wu

BSD City, Indonesia

BINUS School Serpong

Creative Nonfiction

You wake up, as you do every day. Curtains closed tight, reading lamp on from the night before. Your dog-eared novel stuck open at p. 89 where it’s been for weeks.


Remember when you loved books? How you held them as treasures? Got lost in their worlds? How you felt at that last sentence? When was the last time you had enough pieces of yourself to do that?


Your phone buzzes with a chirpy “Good morning!” and “Good day!” Your eyes adjust blearily to the screen. Friends, classmates, teachers. Bright and cheerful. Your teacher calls roll, and your lesson begins in the digital room that is your math class. Feet against the cold floor, your whole body screams at you to return to the warmth of your bed. Who cares about math, anyway? It’s not like you’ll be needing it when you’re dead.


Downstairs, the sunlight glares on the living and dying rooms. In the kitchen, you fill yesterday’s unwashed cup with water.


To the background noise of your droning teacher, you put a butter knife to toast. The knife, you know, is too dull to cut skin.


Your mind is a fuzz, a tangled knot of blurred sounds and vague—what? Memories? Dreams?


The class ends abruptly, the silence nearly deafening. No  sounds of life. Not a chirp from the birds. You are alone in a void.


No, that can’t be right. You’re here with your family. Your neighbours across the street watering the lawn, your sister on a conference call. Your mother in her office typing away, and your father on the couch watching the morning news.


The news. Really? So what if the world is in a bad state. Haven’t you been in a bad state for years?


Aren’t you selfish and pathetic? An artist who can’t create, a writer who can’t write. All you do is sit in your room all day wishing things weren’t as they were. But what happened? Your life had finally started to seem brighter. Didn’t you start having hope?


And then the world barged in with its mess.


After breakfast, you slog upstairs and lock yourself in the dark mess of your bedroom, drawing back your curtains, letting the sunlight stream in. Outside, the sapling has grown tall enough for you to touch. If you could just open your window. Your backyard is green and alive, the sky—for the first time in years—bright blue.


When was the last time your big, dirty city gave you a sky like that? And yet there it is, blue as a movie’s promise.


For a minute you think, you can do this—keep up your reputation, be a good student, submit things on time, graduate, follow the plan, chase your dreams, full speed ahead!


But as you turn off the dim reading light, the darkness returns. You think you might as well die now.


What’s the point of all of the trying and hoping through hardship and stress, when the world could take it all away just like that? You think of the seniors who spent three harsh years of their lives studying for a now cancelled exam. You think of their delayed university applications, their delayed hopes and dreams.


Wouldn’t dying be easier?


Selfish child. You can’t just die. What if everyone thought that way? What would come of humanity? Besides, just a minute ago you were fine. You were smiling at a bright blue sky. You were happy, weren’t you?


Your phone buzzes. A text message from a friend.


How are you?


You blink and assess. Your legs under the blanket, your back leaning against the pillowed headboard. 


How did you get here?


The message glares at you like a test question you get every day, the answer to which is never trusted. Answer positively, and they think you’re hiding something. Tell them the truth and they call you attention-seeking. Am I attention-seeking right now, writing this?


Your eyes shut, your head hurts. Just tell them you’re fine.


No. Your friends are good people. They’re honest, they lift each other up. But their kindness only adds to your guilt, because you can’t be not fine. You were fine. You are fine.

You want to answer the way you’ve always answered. But they’re tired of your answer, which is not an answer


As I always am.


The truth. Tell them the truth.


Just tell them. Tell them you don’t know.


But when was the last time you knew?

EDITORIAL PRAISE

This piece will stand as an artifact of 2020 experience. The delicate but powerful language illuminates an internal conversation about mental health. The use of rhetorical devices makes it particularly rich material for community discussion.

Greetings! My name is Angie Wu, and I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I live in Jakarta, Indonesia, most recently transferring to BINUS School Serpong for high school. I am currently in 11th grade, and I'm an aspiring author who only wants to spread their thoughts and ideas with the world, with "The Art of Being Not Quite Fine" being my latest finished work.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR