take two women.

“Take two women. They’re living in the ‘20s, maybe sometime in the 1800s – regardless, it’s before modern medicine. They both suffer from histrionic migraines…”

“Do you know what histrionic means?”

“Not really. Anyway, they both get these crippling migraines. They have to lie down in a dark room on every sunny day. Their families suffer, their husbands want them to be these sparkling old-fashioned hostess type wives and mothers, but they just can’t bear it when they’re held in the clutches of this insane pain.”

“Why are they women?”

“What? Who cares, they’re women, why?”

“I don’t know, I just feel like you’re feeding into stereotypes or something.”

“It doesn’t even matter if I am, for the sake of my point. Just let me finish. Their lives weave in and out of normalcy and infirmity. They’re basically slaves to these headaches. For all intents and purposes, the two old-fashioned ladies are pretty similar: same age, social status, same trials of daily life.”

I listened as his face twisted in the way it did when he was torturing out a provocative thought, like he didn’t want to put it out into the world but had no choice. His brows met; his ear trembled minutely, as if by the vibration of his brain.

“One of these women, even though they seem alike on the surface, might take it a bit harder. She can’t enjoy life and dreads the “episodes.” It’s not worth it for her. She goes away.”

“Goes away?”

“Yeah, takes her life. The other woman, she’s definitely not happy about it either, but she would rather suffer for eons than let something else win this…personal battle. A battle over her own body. That turns into a battle of the mind.”

“So your point is that some people are just stronger than others? I thought that was, I don’t know, common sense. Human nature.”

“It is, but it’s more than that. I’m having trouble articulating…I think what I’m trying to say is that some people are built more for battle. They like that competitiveness, they thrive on beating something or someone. It’s not a question of strength. The woman that gave up isn’t necessarily weaker, she just made a decision that the struggle wasn’t worth it. I still can’t decide which one I would be.”

I knew in my heart that I was the second woman. The weak one. He worried his lip. “I would just overthink myself to death.”

Painting: “Ophelia” by Alexandre Cabanel


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