I'm Never Fine

Joseph S Lezza, University of Texas at El Paso


During the course of my father’s fifteen-month battle with pancreatic cancer, and in its oceanic aftermath, I became both intimately and uncomfortably familiar with the phrase “I’m fine.” It developed into a practical and efficient tool for bringing about a quick shift in subject whenever my family situation came under question by a well-meaning friend, trepidatious relative and even during an unexpectedly emotional phone call with my father’s stockbroker. Though it proved an effective conversational fluctuant, it was, however, wildly untrue. I was never fine. In fact, at any given moment I was maddened, sullen, exhausted, hopeful, paranoid, wired, broken, anxious, hysterical, desperate, antagonistic, wanton, undersexed and overwrought. Yet, despite that masochistic cocktail, in retrospect, I’m not sure if “fine” is something I would have aspired to be. No, you see, beige has no pulse. Sorrow, on the other hand, pumps with life. And, though no one’s using their warehouse club card to buy it in bulk, its presence is accompanied by an accidental gratification that comes from knowing one is privileged enough to have something to feel so deeply about.This collection of essays, entitled I’m Never Fine, captures not only the personal trauma of loss, but all the ways in which it explodes outwards from the point of impact, leveling all conception of mortality while thrusting those in the blast radius towards a future of inevitable reconstruction. Never so bold as to suggest there is anything procedural or uniform about coping with grief – and, while I don’t seek to discredit anyone who believes differently, I do find most of their assertions reckless. My guiding principle of this book is to be true to the story itself, documenting how an emotional unmooring of this magnitude can breed a silent chaos as victims confront unfinished business, reinterpret the past, redefine reality, seek out connection, sequester sentiment, and compromise relationships all while placing themselves in unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situations out of the sheer desire to be someone else - if only for a few fleeting moments. In the end, though, the elusive “fine” is never quite graspable. It’s the impossible conclusion of some self-help book. But, with the acceptance of this fact can come great personal freedom. Because it is the very absence of that fine-ness that facilitates an appreciation for the power of feeling, regardless of the form in which it presents itself.

Subject Area

Creative writing

Recommended Citation

Lezza, Joseph S, "I'm Never Fine" (2019). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI27548352.