The Depressed Person’s Guide to Love

1.

While society’s warming up to the idea that mental illnesses might be no different from physical ones, legitimacy-wise, understand that grokking this on an intellectual level’s a lot different than actually forging a connection with someone who mulls over the idea of ending their life on the regular.

2.

While you’re swiping right, wonder if you should go off the antidepressants because of the way they kill your libido. Realize you could be alive and impotent or dead with a hard-on. Cringe at the pictures you’ve used, the pathetic, full-of-shit life you could never, with good conscience, share with anyone ever again. Understand: every right swipe is a shovelful of dirt on the grave of your pride.

3.

Keep swiping right anyway.

4.

Go to the gallery showing for the free cake and the pop that’s been left out too long. Stay for the photographer who captures freshly foreclosed homes, newly abandoned factories, places at the interstitial point between habitation and vacancy. Tell her you think her work is “really very good.” Shake your head even as the words come out, like concurrently with what you’re saying. Take her card, but remember: she’s only doing this to be polite. Because she feels sorry for you. Choke on the pop but don’t let her see. Stand off to the side. Pretend to appraise one of her photos on the wall. Sputter silently.

5.

Compose a text saying how great it was to meet. How you’d love it if she’d give you a “shot” and join you for lunch sometime. Delete everything. Start over. Be nonchalant. End the text with an emoticon of a smiling monkey. Realize that’s childish and change it to “hahaha.” Give the hahaha its own sentence and capitalize the H. Go back to the smiling monkey. Leave your phone on the bed, text unsent. Masturbate furiously. But stop, because antidepressants. End the text with a hahaha and a smiling monkey. Hit send.

6.

Throw up in a dumpster outside the restaurant. Worry it might get all over the inevitable workers when it’s emptied. Decide you’re a terrible person for doing this. Consider stopping at the CVS, buying a towel, tossing it in the dumpster for absorption. Be in the middle of counting your change when she arrives. Put the change in her hand. Tell her you don’t know why you did that, that you didn’t mean she was a prostitute or anything like that.

7.

Get Mederma for the scars that train-track stitch marks down your arms. But the kind for kids, because you’re cheap. It goes on purple and smells like a birthday party. Laugh at your stupid, birthday-smelling scars.

8.

Get a match on Tinder. Be smooth for once. Set up a date. Marathon a show the night before, something cerebral so you have no brainspace for overthinking. Sleep for twelve hours. Take out the concealer you bought at Sephora from the purple-lipsticked cashier who wouldn’t stop staring at your train track arms. Get as far as opening the cap before putting it away. Compromise by putting on a nice button-down.

9.

Get pushed against the wall, knocking over a framed photo. Apologize, but keep going when she insists it’s okay. When she moves for the button-down, bat her hands away. Take her shirt off instead. When she says “now you,” take your pants off. Laugh when she laughs. Get serious when she gets serious. Make it casual when you turn off the lights. Tell her you want to see her by touch. Make a note: good line. It’s super effective. Tackle the bed.

10.

When her fingers trace infinity symbols or figure eights down your flank, resist the urge to pee. When her fingers approach the smooth tightness of scar tissue, let them. Listen to the vacuum of sound this surprise has made. Reach over and turn on the light. Be naked. Try not to notice the way her nose wrinkles, how she recovers by turning it into a sniff. Be grateful when her cat walks in, jumps on the bed, sidles between your naked bodies. Let the cat lick your arm with its sandpaper tongue and be grateful, again, for these creatures. Put your clothes on in silence.

11.

Delete all your apps. Your profiles. Your personae. Toss out the Sephora concealer. Consider trashing the button-downs, but don’t be stupid.

12.

Pull the concealer out of the trash.

13.

Put it back in. Take the garbage to the curb.

14.

Be okay with this. Go to a library book sale and cover your arms with a tower of books. Fantasize about dropping them and the mousy bookworm who will help pick them up. Bump into someone during your reverie. Be told to watch where the fuck you’re going. Drop not a single book. Checkout. Sit down and appraise your haul. Consider posting a pic on social media. Don’t. Be told the dude you bumped into was a bit harsh. Look over. See a woman behind her own booktower. See she has The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Tell yourself not to say “Oscar Wilde” when you gush, but do it anyway. Appreciate the dimples. Appreciate the dimples.

15.

Let her unstack your tower, one at a time. Be naked. Notice her noticing. Try to bring it back to books, and be grateful as she goes along with it. As she smiles a smile to you that says. That says. That says. I know.

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The World Underneath

In the mornings after a rain she’ll forage for berries from bushes sprouting through sidewalks, dewy rubble sliding away, some of it turning to chalky mud between her toes. She’ll climb the wires that the old levilator used to use and reach the top of the building she uses for water, cups and pans and buckets and pails and upside down umbrellas and helmets filled with rain. She’ll inspect them carefully, look for any trace of contamination. All it would take was to drink from something that’s been soiled by the birds and she’ll be gone.

Gone. Gone to where? Mother always said that when you left this world you were taken to the world underneath, that that’s where everybody went. Mother said it was a place of peace and calm, and mystery. Mystery because no one who had gone to the world underneath had ever come back. And you were supposed to stay in this world here as long as you could, because… Because. There never was an actual reason beyond the because. The because I said so. You were to stay here as long as was your appointed time, then go away. Forever.

Forever. For ever. The way Mother used to say it, it was like the way the sun always peeked across the sky, chasing away the darkness only to be pursued again. That was forever. But couldn’t even the sun die, the girl wanted to ask? Wouldn’t it? She didn’t ask then, and now she couldn’t at all. Some things really do slip through your fingers.

So she’ll look for the world underneath in the cracked and cracking features on the city’s swollen face, the scars of buildings healed over by tissue in the form of vines and wires of green, leaves intruding past shattered windows, erring into the darkness within, retreating and angling up the sides of the glass towers, reaching up high for the sun, a mirror image of themselves beside them, shining in the light in the minutes that the sun can be seen, before it hides once again from view, behind not so much cloud as it is interstitial haze, fog coming from somewhere human eyes have never been, will never go, even in their dreams. Hanging thick, choking the air of oxygen, sticking to the rags the girl will have to wear forever, the coils of her hair, the muddy grass now tinged black at blade tips, from this haze, whatever it is.

She’ll explore.

She will, in her time, make her way down to the sewer cover she’s seen before, the one that Mother steered her away from, to the other side of the street, beside the plastic people dangling from an old shop’s broken pane, no pain on these plastic faces, charred even, one of them with a handprint of old and faded blood on its cheek, colored brown in the sun, crackling in spots like dead paint on a wall that hasn’t been seen in generations. She will make her way to this sewer cover, and she will turn around to see if there’s anyone watching her, but there will be no one. No one but her. Forever. She will pry at it with dried-mud hands, but it will go nowhere. She will have no grip on it. She will go to the shop with the blank plastic faces and find in it a crowbar. She will picture in her mind a crow perched on this implement, this foreign tool that holds no significance to her. She will take this tool and pry the cover with all of the strength she has inside of her, and it will come free, crowbar tipping over, falling as the lid comes clear of the hole, the tool tipping, spinning, falling, still not making a sound, and before she can think of what is happening, the girl will be pushed, from behind, tipping over and forward, through the hole, to chase the tool she will have dropped down there.

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Fuga, flight. Fugere, flee.

Because when I wanted Clair de Lune coming from a Bluetooth speaker on the beach, waves coming close but not quite reaching, sun behind gray clouds, the whole nine, I wanted it with him and not with you. Because when I shiver it’s from the foreignness of your touch, the wrongness of it, like raw egg sliding down your spine. Because when you’re gone I write out envelopes to his address, stamp them, mail him not nothing but the absence of something, one a week. Because when my head’s on the pillow that still smells of him, thoughts hazy and hypnagogic, I wade out into the sea, up to my neck, and feel the weight as I breathe in, one two three. Because when I wander these streets now, hills covered lovely in fog, the mist that dances on grass blades, I see nothing but particles bouncing at different wavelengths, random specks fluttering from here to there, ever separate. Because when I turn your head away from me in bed, turn it till you’re looking at the ceiling and I can be sure you don’t see me, not even from your peripheral, I make the faces that drove him over the edge, the faces for him but not for you. Because when I say fugue you say what, but when I said it to him it could be found in the French, or the Italian, from the Latin fuga, flight, related to fugere, flee.

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What She Will Do

She will make you watch for allusions in shows, books, movies. She will cause you to chew a little slower, to un-hamfist your fork and get your elbows off the table. She will alert you to the mounds of garbage mountain-ranging through your apartment, the clothes un-hampered and wrinkled. She will teach you what cumin is. She will show you how to follow a recipe. She will convince you to get slippers, to not walk barefoot through a home of garbage. She will say hey you should clean up this garbage home. She will get you to clean up this garbage home. She will drink your tea and read your stories at night, blue-and-white flashing police box outside the only light to read by. She will take you to an Asheville drum circle where you will dance and frolic. She will smell of the ocean and of furs, many furs. She will kiss your nose after she comes, a tiny present for what has happened here between you. She will will shebears to come for you if you ever piss her off. She will smell of cinnamon and the must of her pillow, which will not go away, even after the wash. She will check your phone and find nothing. She will ask what you have deleted. She will say you’re a fuck and she can smell it on you. She will not believe that the smell is her smell, that it always has been. She will be able to get around your garbage home without once looking at you: a magic trick. She will run the sink loud enough for you to not hear when she’s “freshening up.” She will not know that you can hear her retching, the quiet drops into porcelain. She will water down your bottles of hard cider, put her socks in the fridge. She will come home to drop her things and to drop her keys and to drop on the couch. She will be dropping all the time. She will say do you love me, say not ask, in her sleep, on the couch, on the floor, wherever it’s horizontal. She will make biscuits for a small army, eat one, give the rest to the squirrels. She will make them happy squirrels. She will break her key off in the lock, close the door, lock you out. She will not answer the door no matter what you say, what you do. She will hang your belongings from rope outside the windows: an art installation. She will have men over to sit on the other side of the room, tell them to wait for their appointed time, make them leave. She will try to do the right thing. She will say I can’t hear you this is a soundproof door, I don’t need you, come back tomorrow. She will Eternal Sunshine you, then remember, then Eternal Sunshine you again. She will let you in. She will ignore the garbage mountain ranges, the piedmont of dirty clothes. She will put her elbows on the table. She will hamfist her fork. She will have something on as background noise, feed-swiping, coming up for air when necessary. She will fall asleep there, somewhere it’s horizontal, and you will put a blanket over her. She will rest.

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