I went to the gym this morning, despite the harrowing I went through yesterday, terrified about my mom’s condition.

As I was doing a chest press kind of thing, I noticed that my back was hurting. Not any more than you might expect, but when I mentioned it, my trainer jumped on it, stretched me, and then worked a completely different set of muscles. She asked me why I didn’t mention it immediately when it started. I said, “because I tend to take everything too seriously, I’m used to everything being hard and uncomfortable and I’m trying not to be fag.”

When are you supposed to know? When is it too hard, and why do we try so hard to do well in some instances and in others, we just figure FuckIt.

I got done with the gym, some two hours later, and I was gonna try my mom’s cell phone. A young professional mother was trying to get all of her shit down the stairs, the baby, the walker, her bags, etc., and was having a hard time. At one point, she just abandoned her purse and small shopping bag, grabbed her son, and went back inside to deal with whatever other stuff she had forgotten.

I got through on my voice mail, and there was a message from my mom. Barely audible, sounding terrible, she croaked that she was fine, that there was almost no pain. “Yesterday was a hard day,” she said, and then qualified, “actually, yesterday morning was hard, last night wasn’t so bad.”

She could barely talk, and she qualified her pain, just so I’d know she was gutting it out. This isn’t that serious, she was saying, I’m doing fine, you don’t need to worry.

Hearing your mother’s voice in pain has to be similar to hearing your child’s, I thought as the kid was being re-strapped into his stroller. The woman had made it, with me, to the bottom of the stairs and had to run back up to get something, this time leaving the little boy with me by the door.

I wanted to say something. I’m gonna try to have kids in the next five years or so, and it’s all gonna start again. Why won’t my mom talk about her pain, unless it’s in huge rhapsodic lunges? Why do I laugh off everything, but secretly harbor horrible feelings of resentment and hostility even toward my friends.

There is this cycle of self abuse that we go through, this pioneer mentality that makes Michelle incapable of talking about how scared she is, that makes Ian ashamed of better living through pharmaceuticals, that makes me look in the mirror and see a man as tough as veal, as strong as a child. Every time I think to say that I feel pain, this voice of accusation comes at me that I am too loud, too self indulgent, too weak, and oftentimes that internal voice is matched by a chorus of external ones.

The kid sat in his stroller at the bottom of the stairs, leaning back and around, trying to see his mom. She was gone, out of sight, gone, maybe never to come back. Even standing there, at 33 years old, I couldn’t promise him beyond a shadow of a doubt that his mom would return unharmed, that he wouldn’t be stranded with the stroller, three shopping bags of crap, a backpack full of sweaty gym stuff and the clothes on his back to survive for the next 70 plus years.

I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. I wanted to say to him, “that feeling? Right now? Looking side to side, wondering where your home is, wondering why love is so hard, why you’re alone, why you have been left, with no explanation and no promise of a return? That’s half your life, right there. And if it’s only half, you are blessed.”