It’s a Monday morning, and as if a tidal wave were pounding towards me with the force of a thousand bricks, I’m knocked for six.
My stomach feels sick, my eyes water, I sit at my desk wondering if now is the time to apologise. Again.
Somewhere across the city he sits at his own desk. A message hits his phone; one he’s seen hundreds of times before. He may not be able to feel the wave coming like I can, but his reflexes are quick. He replies something fast and familiar.
It’s OK, he says, it’ll always be OK.
As someone who has suffered endometriosis from the moment my pre-pubescent self discovered her period, a wave of pain isn’t ever new. A wave of pain is the fastest way my body can tell me my period is coming, and havoc will soon wreck.
The wave that comes on the occasional Monday morning – as well as the one that follows on the odd Thursday night and on a random Sunday afternoon – hits faster than I have time to work out why my upper cheeks are stained with the remnants of salty tears.
Because although guilt isn’t a wave of physical pain, it manifests itself as if it might as well be.
Guilt for everything I’m not, guilt for the toll a chronic illness has on those that don’t bear its scars, guilt for the man who stumbled into my life and became as consumed by the illness as I am. Guilt that I – as the one who is meant to make his life better – can occasionally make his life worse.