I joined a dating app.
After all, I’m a terminally single lonely gay girl so I figured why not meet other lonely gay girls and maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll all end up less lonely? It’s a pretty good idea, in theory.
… Right up until the point where I had to Pick Three Things To Describe Myself. You know, like “has a good sense of humor”, “adventurous!”, “loves kids”. Except I can’t say any of that because I have never had a sense of humor once in my life, my idea of an adventure is wearing pants out of the house, and I think children are disgusting, screaming sacks of protein and unfinished cerebral cortex best left to the care of others.
So, when faced with this particular dilemma I did what any sensible girl would do in this situation and asked my best friends how they would describe me. They had some good ideas. Warm. Intellectual. Vibrant… and the one that really stood out was “too stubborn to die.”
Too stubborn to die.
It’s hilarious, you can laugh at it, you should laugh at it because I’ve tried to kill myself three times in the last ten years– don’t ever put that on a dating profile by the way, don’t let them know you’re absolutely crazy before they get to talk to you– but it’s true. This body I inhabit is tenacious. Obstinate. Stubborn.
I was born 4 months too early and every time my mother touched me I would get so excited my heart would stop so the nurses made her stop touching me. At 3 I contracted meningitis and screamed so loud I scared off a horde of medical residents. By 10 I’d had 6 major surgeries around my cranial nerves. From puberty onward I would attempt suicide three times because I was and still am so goddamn tired. Last year I had a stroke. I was 23 and I almost died from a freak blood clot in my temporal lobe..
But here’s the kicker: none of that has managed to kill me. My heart continues beating in defiance of fate and my own free will. I’m not going anywhere any time soon. I guess I must not be allowed to.
I can’t put all of that on a dating profile, though. There’s a character limit. So I guess I’ll just have to go with “I’m reliable”.
“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”
There are universal truths:
- Love and fury are indivisible.
- Matter cannot be created or destroyed.
- There is victory in being remembered.
- No one exists on purpose.
And so you will persist in the wake of your own supernova as an accidental afterimage on the retina of the sky that we will all observe in love and fascination.
Boundaries are weird. Cosmically weird. I’ve always had a problem with boundaries.
See, I walk around with my ribcage cracked open and my lungs on display for anyone who cares to watch me breathe; you’d think I would unlearn surprise at their love of this softness but my lungs are not my heart and I recoil from anyone who tries to reach out and touch. What if they take hold and squeeeze and get lung tissue under their nails? They can’t be trusted.
My sternum, unattached, sits a floating, ineffective guard against whatever may come my way while I navigate this strange grapple between crippling fear of intimacy and desperate starvation for the softness of the skin webbing between fingers and the soft spot beneath the ear and countless other places where it would be so nice to touch and be touched.
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.
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.
I devoted years of my life to a boy and he does not think of me. I could die tomorrow and he would not mark my passing but my life is changed forever for having known him. Thanks to him I love the stars, the sea, the unknown. I fear it, yes, but I love it in equal measure. Because of him I am brave. Oh the irony! I should know better than to expect so much of men.
When I think of how I lost him, how I walked away from him because I grew so weary of the hunt, it strikes me that no one– not my best friends, not my lovers, not my kin– has ever loved me for those passions and traits I hold dearest to me. No, because their eyes glaze over when I talk about those things but! They love me for the ways in which I absorb and magnify their wonderments. Is it any wonder that I am a hall of mirrors? That I’m utterly at a loss for how to make conversation when I’m not being talked to? That I do not know what to do without instruction? Maybe that is why only a precious few can stand my presence, it is only those few who can appreciate their own company. They certainly aren’t here for mine.
Face your demons and beat them back, come back breathing, corporeal, not strictly whole. Am i trying hard enough yet am i allowed to want to die? No. Regret is stronger than gratitude though so I could look forward to the flowers on my grave then. But at least if she dies you’ll get the insurance payout. I will never live it down, getting angry at you for that one. I will never open my mouth again put pen to paper again because every time everything that comes out of it is poison sick a thumbprint of the evil at the back of my throat under my spine lining my skull. How long will it take before it besmirches everything I interact with? Forgive me for not handling this with the grace you think I should have. They didn’t cover this in any of my undergrad classes. Whatever came out of the hospital wasn’t me. No one likes the things it has to say and it is composed only of impulsive grief and rage, only useful in its studious silence of which there is never enough. Would it make a sound like an egg shell if I cracked its skull open on the sidewalk spilled ink yolk across the pavement and wrote out the evil and robbed it of speech instead?
Scene: a receptionist– excuse me, an “administrative assistant”– trying to pretend she hasn’t spent the last 48 hours crying into her tea over papercuts and obsessing over spreadsheet cell dimensions to the last pixel.
Perspective is a funny thing.
In ten years the last two will comprise 5% of her life rather than 10% and she will think back on her with a fond nostalgia, soothed by the balm of time and closer hurts that relative to this new present make her seem small. Nearly insignificant. Maybe even a fond memory. A lovely aching novelly-shaped bruise that gets showed off on Twitter instead of… whatever this is. Whatever this is.
There. The cells are evenly proportioned according to the Fibonacci sequence. No one else will notice but the receptionist– administrative assistant– will be satisfied.
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.