Fine: A Lesson in Improvisations


“So, are you okay?”

“I am fine.”

“You always say you are fine.”

When did we become trained in ‘fines’ and ‘okays’? Verbatim that is a transaction of words my friend and I had last night. Her—worried for my emotional well-being. Me—telling her I was ‘fine’. What does fine even mean?

When you look ‘fine’ up in the dictionary it is a word that’s meaning is all over the place. As an adverb it means satisfactory or pleasing in manner. Yet, I rarely feel people mean this when they answer on auto-pilot: “Fine.” As a verb, fine means to punish in the form of a payment (typically money, and typically as a penalty to law-breaking). Perhaps when we say we are fine it sometimes takes on the verb meaning. Perhaps it means we feel we are fined by being humans, by having emotions. “Life takes its toll”—that whole bit. It is the price we pay for living. We get apathetic, battered, broken, hurt, humiliated, scathed, scarred, etc—fines exacted for defying death a day at a time.

My favorite ‘fine’ is one of its numerous noun meanings—“Used as a direction in music to mark the closing point after a repeat”—Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I think this is what I subconsciously mean. I am a fine in musical direction. I make the same mistake more than once (a repeat) before coming to a closing point on the matter (a fine). I find, for me, it rarely takes experiencing something once to fully experience it. Maybe I am foolish. Maybe I am beating myself bloody against other people, but only hurting myself. Really I think it is my curiosity—of how things work, of how people work and think and hurt and love. I now feel like I am at a closing point in my young, childish, and naïve feelings on love and relationships. Not that I am done, but only that I have made the same mistakes, the same decisions, the same choices, and I am now done with that part of my song. I have taken what I can from this aria, and I am on to the next aria. It is a process, a part of my bildungsroman, my rite of passage into adulthood.

Perhaps I am philosophizing too much. And I know most people do not think of ‘fine’ in this way. Perhaps people are placated by the word in ways that I cannot be without some deeper meaning behind it. But, I am not one to be easily placated when it comes to words and language. I am learning though— that fleetingness and ephemeral-ness, have their beauty and place in my heart, and that too can become a part of my melody—less repeats and more improvisations.


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