"Good morning, Mr. Fennell. How are you today?"
The man smiles at me and presents his hand as though it is a homecoming gift from an old friend.
His gaze gives off the thin facsimile of warmth and concern, but there is no real emotion behind his eyes.
I reach for his hand to participate in this distant and impersonal greeting, preparing my answer.
A thought whispers an imperative into my ears.
"Tell him the truth," it says.
"Stop lying to people."
Our hands clasp, somewhat awkwardly.
"I have never been worse, each and every day. I don't even know what happiness is anymore. Every day, the majority of my energy is dedicated to finding reasons to keep myself alive. Most of the time, I don't find any. Every morning, I get out of bed silently reciting my unconvincing mantra: 'I am myself, not someone else.' Every night, I get back into bed not believing those words for a second. I have to take medication just to gain control of my own mind long enough to finish the things that I start, a fact which has haunted me so ferociously throughout my entire life that it has taken until this year for me to finally overcome the fear of its implications and talk to a doctor about it. Even with the medication, I still must sacrifice almost every facet of my social and personal life in dedication to a major towards which I no longer harbor any of the passions that I once did. I isolate myself despite hating the feeling of being alone. I am constantly frustrated with the world around me, and can feel the creeping grasp of alcoholism inching ever closer with each disquieting thought. I analyze constantly. Sensory information is immediately broken down into its most primitive of mechanical components and reconstructed in my vision as slow-motion, detailed replays of each event, regardless of how desperately I try to simply be a part of the world without tearing it apart. I hate this life. I hate this mind. I hate this constant struggle, and I wish that there was something more."
After a most fractional duration of time that seems to me like an eternity, I give the man's hand one firm shake and speak at last.
"I am doing just fine today. How about yourself?"