When I was seven, I was diagnosed with emotions.
"Poor girl." I heard them say. "She'll never survive this one."
I laid with my face towards the ceiling on the cold examination table, listening to them discuss my fate. I felt something breaking in my chest and something burning inside my throat. A small tear slipped down my cheek.
"Doctor! Look at this!" Shrieked my mother, "Something is coming out of her eye."
The doctor rushed over to me and wiped the tear from my cheek. He touched the top of my head as he whispered, "I am so sorry." And then he turned to my mother. "It's a tear. It means that she is sad."
"Sad?" My mother asked inquisitively.
"It's one of her emotions. This doesn't attack the same way that normal diseases do, there are all sorts of different symptoms. Right now, she is sad and the only way that I know how to explain it is that she is feeling down."
"What do you mean by down?"
"Her emotions can best be described as ones that are up—when she is feeling good, and ones that are down—when she is feeling bad. Right now she is feeling sad, which is a down emotion. If you need to understand her, ask her if she is feeling up or down. That's all
I know how to tell you."
"Will it kill her, doctor?"
He was silent. "Doctor?" She persisted.
"I don't know. She's got her heart on her sleeve, and that makes her vulnerable."
My mother took a step back.
"I truly am sorry." Said the doctor.
I was fifteen when I felt love for the first time. There was a boy, I don't even remember his name, but he used to walk me home after school, and then one day he stopped. When I asked him why, he told me that he simply didn't want to anymore and that it was out of his way and illogical.
I went home and curled up on my couch.
"Are you feeling up or down today?" Asked my mother.
"I don't know." I said. "Both."
My mother took me to see the doctor again. He asked me how I was feeling. I told him that I felt something ripping at my chest and pounding in my stomach when I looked at the boy. I told him that I liked the way that I was feeling, but at the same time, I wanted it to stop.
He listened attentively. "Honey, I think you feeling the beginnings of love. It's an emotion, but you can't quite categorize it as up or down. And I'm sorry, but it will only get worse as you get older."
The doctor handed me tissues as he waited for me to regain my composure before he took me back to my mother. He told her that we had sorted things out and that if we ever needed to see him again, all that we had to do was call.
And then he turned to me. "Just keep your head up, it will all turn out fine." He gave me a friendly wink and my mother took me back home.
It was years before I saw the doctor again. I had experienced bouts of love, anger, and even happiness. But it was none of these that drew me to him again—it was listlessness. I was twenty-seven years old when I sat in the doctor's office once again.
He handed me a mug of tea and we had a little chat.
"What seems to be bothering you?"
"I don't know, doctor. I've become bored with everything. I get up, go to work, come home, sleep, repeat. Day in, day out. What else is there to be done?" I asked. "What does everyone else do every day?"
"They do the same things that you do." His eyes fixed on mine. "The exact same, monotonous thing, we all do."
"But why?" I pressed.
"I don't know." He said, leaning back in his chair. "It's what we've been taught to do for all of our lives. It doesn't bother anyone else—"
"Because you can't feel." I said finishing his thought.
"If you don't mind me asking, what sorts of things do you feel?" He asked.
I sighed and sat up in my chair.
"Go on." He urged.
"It's awful, doctor." I said, my voice cracking, "I start caring about someone or something, my heart breaks and then I repeat the cycle. I don't know how to stop it."
The doctor closed his eyes as if remembering.
"And what does it feel like? What do you do?"
"At first, it's wonderful, I feel up, like I am pumping sunshine through my veins instead of blood, but then it feels sad, like my heart has shattered, and like glass, it can never truly be whole again."
He opened his eyes and began to speak. "I'm sorry, but I think you know what I am about to say."
I shook my head through tears in my eyes. "No…no."
He looked directly into my eyes as he said, "I'm sorry, but no one will ever be able to feel the way you feel about them."
I covered my mouth with my palm and let out a sob-like breath. "I know. I've always known, I just have been afraid to say it out loud."
"I really am sorry. You are a strange case dear. It's very surprising that you have survived to this point, most die young or are driven insane."
"And there is nothing you can do about it?"
He looked at the floor. "Nothing."
I saw the look on his face. "You're lying." I sneered.
"Yes," he said looking up me again. "But I won't do it."
"Why?" I asked, my voice cracking as my heart pushed into my throat.
He shook his head.
"What makes you qualified to make this decision for me?" I asked through gritted teeth.
"Because I am not going to allow you to do this. Don't you see? You have so much, all the feelings that have been lost over time. You may not realize it now, but I am begging you to think about it."
There was no point in attempting to hide the tears at this point. "There is something you aren't telling me doctor." I exhaled between fits of sobs. "What is it?"
He shook his head and whispered, "Please."
I stood up and grabbed my belongings. "Goodbye doctor."
I have been emotion-free for thirteen years now. I get up to work, come home, sleep, and do it all again the next day. I am married to a nice man. We talk about our days at work while I cook dinner and he reads the newspaper. We considered children at one point, but it's too late now.
I haven't seen the doctor since I stormed out of his office that day years ago. He would be disappointed with my choice. I think I know what he was talking about all those years ago when he tried to warn me against leaving, I think he knew what this was like—the expectations, the almosts.
The expectation to feel something when my husband kisses me goodnight. The expectation to feel something when winter blows over the world. The almost feeling I get when my mother calls and I am reminded that I haven't seen her in months. The almost feeling I get when I remember the doctor and realize that I left the one person who could almost love me.