How’ve You Been?

This poem was written in response to the question of why and how we can simply respond with the word “good” when someone we have not seen in a long time asks us how we have been, and what “good” means to me.

They ask, how’ve you been?

You pause for a moment, unsure before you answer,

…“Good.”

Because in the few seconds you take to respond,

The idea of finding the words to describe the state of your soul

Stretches out before you like every good dream and every bad dream you’ve ever had,

All within reach but altogether elusive

And you stall

Because how do you convey that one night,

That you found yourself,

Sitting on the floor of your best friends dorm

When it was 2am and you were drunk and crying and yearning and trying

To find that adventure you always wanted

All while you were grasping for something or someone to call home

Like the numbers that lined your generic dorm room hall

But a little more permanent

With more freedom to roam

But when you see those familiar faces

And hear those familiar words

When they ask, how’ve you been?

You pause for a moment, unsure.

It dawns on you that maybe they don’t need to understand that goldfish taste best after 10pm

Or that the hills and stairs you climb never get easier

But you climb them anyway

And when you’re with your friends

How you don’t know if it’s the laughter or the exercise that steals your breath

But something feels easier

Or what it’s like making a walk of shame in sub-zero temperatures

And the wind-whipped, numb-cheeked, hungover smile that spreads across your face

When you wonder

Why this whole thing should be shameful anyway

Or even what the ivy looked like on the side of that one building

When the sun hit it just right

And its colors were just perfect for that time of year

And how when it was late afternoon and everything was still

When no one was around

How you pretended that the only things that existed were you, that building, and God

And how it felt that way.

How do you let them know that you’re any different as a person, any better

Than when you knew them before you met new people

When you had knots in your stomach

That time you tried to describe to your new friends

The way that the asphalt buckled in your driveway at home

Because of that one misplaced pine tree and its roots

The familiar dip in your stomach when backing out in the old stick shift

Towards that one street where that one light seems to take forever

The one street

With the one light that you thought would always keep you waiting

And the resigning sigh when you realize that these people would never really know

About the asphalt that buckled in your driveway at home

Because of that one misplaced pine tree and its roots

And how it led to that one street

With the one light that always kept you waiting

Maybe there wasn’t a need to convey

The way that you found yourself

Sitting on the floor of your best friends dorm

When it was 2am and you were drunk and crying and yearning and trying

To find that adventure you always wanted

All while you were grasping for something or someone to call home

Like the numbers that lined your generic dorm room hall

But a little more permanent

With more freedom to roam

Because maybe up until that very moment

When they asked, how’ve you been?

And you paused for a moment, unsure.

You think of the time that you found yourself

Sitting on the floor of your best friend’s dorm

And you realize

You didn’t even know that you had been lost

It was just 2am and you were drunk and crying and yearning and trying

To find the adventure you had been living all along

All while you were grasping for something or someone to call home

But you were home

Then you heard those familiar words

And saw those familiar faces

And after the moment they asked, how’ve you been?

You realize that you are, in fact, good

When you flash to a moment in time

Of pretending it was just you, God, and the building with ivy and vines

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