“Now I saw in my dream that… they drew near to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain; and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was “Despond.” Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt… because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.”
— John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
The Slough of Despond is a nasty, miserable bog of guilt that sucks people in and is almost impossible to escape. In The Pilgrim’s Progress it’s an allegory for sin but I think it can be more accurately described as Depression. Yes, capital-D, clinically-diagnosable Depression.
Knowing someone stuck in the Slough of Despond can be difficult, draining, and generally lead to depression itself. I know this because I am scandalously intimate with the Slough. It’s my Unhappy Place. I’ve lived with it since I was 8 years old.
Continue reading “The Slough of Despond”
I’m making a pb&j at midnight because I live alone and can do this kind of thing without arousing suspicion. I haven’t eaten a full meal in a week. The world has made me sick.
As always when I’m sick and tired I think of you. How it’s been almost three months since we last spoke. Almost eighteen since we kissed. How when Death came for me my mother turned you away from our doorstep and how I am glad and resentful for it. How you went from being the woman I wanted to marry to a bullet grazing my cheek en route to elsewhere. Late nights like this the scar stings. I do my best to soothe it with hamfisted metaphor and flourishes but I always fall short.
I always fall short.
I never read the letter you left on my nightstand.
But then you went and gave my mother a card for me in the wake of my nearly-dying. A card full of hallmark sentiments about freedom. “You just crawled tooth and nail from your death bed but don’t you remember how I broke up with you? Aren’t you happy I let you go free?” I’m paraphrasing but that is the spirit of it and I wish I’d never read it.
Would you have said the same thing at my funeral? Eulogized not my corpse below you but our relationship? Waxed poetic about the crushing kindness you did me by breaking my heart?
As if I would allow you to speak at my funeral.
I think I understand what happened now. When your feelings fill your lungs like tar you don’t know what to do about the slow pain of drowning. You wheeze about your selflessness and sacrifice and the undying love you bear others and never manage to cough up what’s eating you.
Lucky for me I’m not dead and I only miss you like this when I’m tired and hungry. Maybe that’s what drove you away. I smother the things I love when there is no clear line at the start of no man’s land.
First come the smiles, then the lies- last is gunfire.
Here we are. Alive and full to bursting. Me with cheap metaphor and you with unspoken tar.
Tell me, how does your freedom taste?
Everything smells like blood. I can’t tell if it’s my body or if everything actually smells like blood. I’ve been taking rat poison so long, walking the tight rope of “just enough to keep me from dying”.
I would like to stop taking it.
I would like to wake up without tasting iron.
I would like to finish a novel.
I would like to be left alone with a one-bedroom apartment, a good night’s sleep, broken eggshells with no remorse, no more thinking in fours.
I would like to shrug off shame with the same ease with which I curse the bad angle of a door swinging shut. “Shit. That’s fine. I didn’t need those knuckles anyway.”
If wishes were horses beggars would ride.
Fortunately for bitter English proverbs today my locus of control is more internal than external and I’ve got an idea.
I would know you in the most archaic and complete sense. How is it you can sit with your back to the door? What is it that you keep writing? Where is it that you go when your eyes turn inward? I’m curious about what goes on behind those eyes, electrical storms caught in amber animating anatomy in ways science has just begun to comprehend.
I saw a boy who looked like you today and in his face I beheld a revelation: no matter what you have done (the list is long) or how much hate I harbor in my heart (you’d better believe it is a lot) toward you for it you are a human being. You are made of the same atoms as the rest of us with only negligible differences. You are held together by those same half-comprehensible forces as the rest of us. I will always see boys with you in their faces.
Nevertheless, you curbstomped my heart and I fucking hate you.
The river is two feet above her banks roaring with heavy white water ever eastward from the mountains.
Yesterday, a man threw himself into her and a helicopter sharing my name spent the afternoon looking for him. She found no trace of him, no corpse, no clothes, nobody gasping for life.
The news reported that he fell.
I can hear her over my headphones, rushing grey, eddies tumbling over each other taller than I stand. She’s overfull and if she’s like this any longer the trees that have grown alongside her since I was an infant will rot away from the roots, going the way of the wild grasses, and be swept toward the mountains in the east until they, too, cause more flooding. There will be still more water for men to drown themselves. No reservoir can relieve her.
The Catholic church across the bridge with its stained glass and polished bronze doors counts out the hour with a bell as old as its presence in the city but try as it might she is still louder; that must count for something.
Between the stitches of pavement something resembling a city grows up around us, timeless and with time less to take stock of us. No moloch yet but you snapped another pen for the sake of feeling something and got ink all over your fingers, the cheap kind of Bic black that looks like pigeon feathers, iridescent greyvioletgreen bleeding your cuticles and spiderwebbed palms. Good luck reading the future in that mess. The city doesn’t have time for those jagged plastic bones, all twenty-seven of them exquisitely formed. There’s municipal planning to take care of– music in the parks, bus routes. Priorities.
There are days, rare days where my lungs are enough and these are the days I live for.
The eyebright days. Sunwise curlwild mindsharp toothsome days. Days when I write too much too fast to get ink on my hands —
— but somehow rake ink stains through my hair between every sentence anyway.
When I could kiss the Sun until she shook or anyone as long as they don’t put a stop to the words that couldn’t stop if I wanted them to. Days where it doesn’t matter whether the Sun shows her face because I am shining,
burning bright enough for all of us regardless of whether I’m happy
I am Hubris and that is enough
I am enough.
Death made me
a little giddy i’ll confess
brushing past on the ballroom floor, an
accidental meeting beneath
lead crystalglass refractions,
glance that i can’t
be bothered to return because
She left me
the courage to kiss
You walk back into my office.
Entire universes live and die on the fingertips of choice.
“I feel like an asshole–”
I stop breathing. Look you in the eye for the first time in a year smell the warm denim jacket skin unscented soap crushed lavender from across the room. In the winter of your pause I am in suspended animation living the memory of my arms around your perfect waist, soft, pulling you back into bed.
You aren’t looking at me.
I’m looking past every time you said I was something that could be fixed and into a future where kickstart apologies sputter into something bruised burning wilted growing up out of ashes the way forests do after wildfires.
“– I didn’t need that appointment after all.”
The splitsecond hairsbreadth moment passes.
“If” is the biggest word in the English language.