Time to Talk about Depression!

Alrighty chums, it’s time to talk about a difficult subject. Everyone ready? Okay.

It’s time to talk about depression–but not the personal experience of depression. It’s time to talk about what happens to a person when someone they love is depressed or suicidal. Buckle in.

I want to start with a brief disclaimer: this is not a post in which I will complain about people being depressed or imply that they should “just get better already.” Depression is (and let’s all of us get this through our heads right now) a real and potentially very severe illness. For many people it’s not even connected to their circumstances–it is simply the cause of a chemical imbalance that they have no more control over than a broken arm or a genetic disorder. So let’s get this straight right off the bat: depression is serious, and should be taken that way, it can be deadly, and offering (HEALTHY) support to a depressed friend or family member should be a high priority.

This post is about what happens to people who can’t always figure out how to give that healthy support. I am one of them, I’ll tell you that right now. Sometimes it seems to me that I can trace a straight, unbroken line of depressive episodes (experienced by a variety of different friends and family members) all the way back to the 7th grade. Some of them, especially the ones experienced by friends in middle school, were more fleeting than others, but the point is that I started accruing experience in this area pretty early.

It’s not easy. Not for a second do I believe that my experience has been worse or more important than those people in my life who have battled this incredibly debilitating illness, but I also can’t go on pretending that it wasn’t extremely difficult for me or that I didn’t make some critical mistakes (mistakes which hurt me more than anyone else) while trying to be a good friend.

The closest I have ever come to losing a friend was the summer before my sophomore year–that was definitely the worst case I’ve seen. The kind of deal where they text you at 3 AM just to say goodbye, and you have minutes to do something before it’s too late.

Right now, someone even closer to me than that is barreling down the same path, and I find myself thinking about all the mistakes I made two summers ago, and how I can do better this time–approach this from a healthier angle.

That’s why I’m compiling this list of reminders to myself, and I’m sharing it here just in case someone really needs to hear this right now.

1. You are NOT superman. You can’t save anybody, no matter how much you want to or how hard you try, because it’s not within your power and, more importantly, it’s not your job. You are not a specially appointed guardian angel.

2. People will ultimately do what they want to do, no matter how often you intervene. That hurts, but you have to understand it. My own therapist (I told you all these episodes affected me) worked really hard to get me to understand this. He once had a patient tell him “I could stab this pencil through my eye right now and there’s nothing you can do to stop me,” and that patient was absolutely right. That is why human beings have free will and mastery over their own actions. If someone wants to hurt themselves that badly, you can try to get them some help but YOU can’t always stop them.

3. Reach out to other people. Seriously–it doesn’t matter how much your loved one wants to “keep this all a secret,” if things get bad enough, you need to start reaching out for help. This sounds like pretty simplistic advice, but I learned that, when you’re actually in this kind of situation, it’s harder to do than it seems. It’s happening to me right now, actually–it’s a complicated situation and although I know that very soon this person is going to need help, I find it difficult to reach out because of the complex nature of their relationship to me.

4. On a related note: YOU ARE NOT QUALIFIED. Get that through your head. Unless you went to school for psychology and are a practicing medical professional, you are not qualified to give your loved one the help he or she needs. I don’t care how empathetic you are, I don’t care if all your friends come to you for advice, I don’t care how much you love the person, I don’t even care how much THAT PERSON says you help them. YOU. ARE NOT. QUALIFIED. And if you think your loved one is really on a slippery slope, you need to get them help. You can’t play around with a person’s life just because you have an inflated ego or a savior complex. I learned that the hard way, people–please trust me. The damage you could to a person and ultimately TO YOURSELF is not worth it. Stop feeling special.

5. Depending on the situation, people may not listen to you. Remember that friend two summers ago? I called their parents. Multiple times. I called their father on the night I got that goodbye text and still, STILL, nothing was done until that friend (thank God) called a hotline I had given them and the hotline workers evaluated the situation, made a decision, and sent police/ambulances to the house. Some people–especially parents–just don’t want to believe that this is happening and, frankly, don’t know what to do about it. If things gets bad and it’s safe to tell the parents, TELL THEM. Seriously, don’t be shy. But even if you do, they won’t always take it well and they won’t always do something about it, so keep reaching out to other people. Call school counselors/nurses, look for support wherever you can find it.

6. Your depressed loved one is going to get angry with you. In fact, if you “out” them to other people and force them to get help, they may be so angry that they’ll never talk to you again. Or maybe they will, when they calm down and realize that you made the only possible decision. The point: a friend or family member who won’t speak to you but is alive and healthy is ALWAYS better than a dead one. That should be obvious.

7. You need support too. Constantly worrying that someone you love is going to kill themselves can do a number on your nerves. It can make you obsessive about taking text messages and calls, it can severely interfere with your life, work, and especially your sleep schedule. YOU need someone to talk to as well. Whether it’s another trustworthy friend, a parent, a sibling, a school counselor, you need to find some support for yourself–preferably from someone who can look at the situation more objectively than you might be able to. You can even call those depression/suicide hotlines yourself–they’re incredibly nice people who will give you real, tried and true advice–they know what they’re talking about.

That is all I have for now, but I’m pretty sure this list could be ongoing. Watching someone you love spiral out of control is not a fun process–it’s not easy on anyone. So while you’re trying to be a good friend, child, sibling, remember that you need love and care as well, or you might end up following the same path to self-destruction. I still, to this day, have nightmares about that friend from two summers ago, and we barely even talk now (unrelated circumstances). And all those nightmares still center around one fear: the fear of being too late, of not doing enough to “save” somebody I love. I should have made myself realize from the beginning that I don’t have the power to save anyone anyway.

I don’t for a second regret that I’ve been a source of support and comfort to loved ones who’ve needed it. But I do regret the unhealthy way I did it, sometimes. I regret forgetting a lot of the things I mentioned in that list. So I hope this post has been a reminder to anyone who is going through this. I know it’s terrifying–my heart goes out to you, and I wish you the best of luck.

Some resources, if you need them:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Tips if you’re worried about someone (signs of depression and what to do about it) 

More tips from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 

If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 

 
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Let’s Get Down and Dirty

…and actually start talking about what happened to my creative impulse this past year. I think, if I try really hard, I can actually limit myself to a bulleted list that I like to call “The Reasons I Died a Little Inside: AKA Excuses I Use to Make Myself Feel Better”. Here goes:

*I took a writing course last semester with a professor who called all the wonderful, fun, FIRST PRIZE WORTHY work I did last year “gimmicky” and told me I had to “get serious,” whatever that means.

*Soon it will be the anniversary of the day I worked up the guts to end a relationship that had become horribly abusive and toxic–I have spent the past year struggling with deplorably low self esteem because of how that man treated me.

*See above, except with a former best friend. (I did some real cleaning up last spring, I guess. ha.)

*Another professor of mine told me that if I wanted to go to grad school for Literature, I had to promise not to take any more writing classes as an undergrad.

*I thought I wanted to go to grad school. For Literature.

*My schedule this year was wild, with all my normal classes and conferences, plus three jobs and a new boyfriend on campus with me (please read as: PERPETUAL EXHAUSTION).

I think that’s it for now. I might add more later, but I should probably stop myself from doing that (like I said, I have a tendency to use these as excuses). The main point to take away here is that my self esteem plummeted, I really started questioning my career/future choices, and I felt so bad about my writing in general that I couldn’t finish a single story all year, even when I technically was supposed to for class.

Today I had a short meeting with my writing professor from last year–his class is the one that inspired me to write all those wacky, wonderful pieces I mentioned, pieces I loved and other people loved and judges/published authors loved. Pieces that felt GOOD. The professor, D, is just generally an awesome guy, I really consider him a mentor, and basically I would willingly be his personal slave for life in exchange for writing advice.

So I visited him today for the first time in a while and we talked about this crisis of mine. I complained a lot about last semester’s class, which was stuffy and conventional and “profound.”

“Whenever I read a story in that class,” I told him, “from the very first line I knew exactly what the writer wanted me to feel, and exactly how they were going to do to make me feel it. It was awful.”

He laughed and looked into the distance, like he so often does, and said “See, that’s how you know you’re one of us.”

In other words, an enemy to conventional fiction. His class was all about breaking out of the little college-writing-workshop box, trying unconventional styles, voices, throwing out the “rules”…we produced astoundingly weird and surprisingly alive work, all of us (and pretty much worshiped David Foster Wallace as our king, yeah). To be reminded, one more time, that I belong in that camp, filled me with more joy than I would have expected. I needed to hear that. After being told, by this year’s professor, that I had to be more “serious” (and I really tried, I promise. I really commit myself to taking advice and at least trying it), and after “being more serious” made me feel pretty fake and dead inside, I needed that reminder that not everyone is going to like what I do. But some people will–and I need to do it. I need to do what works for me–that’s the only way my work will have any life in it.

Screw being serious. So I’ll never be Michael Cunningham. I’ll never write a story about kids coming of age in the South. Screw it! Aren’t we all tired of that stuff by now anyway?

Most importantly, D is the first person who’s told me, definitively and aloud, that this crisis is okay. It’s OKAY that I’m super busy, that I’m scared, that I haven’t been writing that much. Let me repeat that one more time: it’s OKAY that I haven’t been writing. I am still a writer. It’s still a part of me, and I’m going to do it because I can’t imagine doing anything else. So I’m going to start being nicer to myself about this whole block–I haven’t messed up in any way by feeling the way I do, or by having a tough year. I’m okay.

If you feel the way I do right now: you’re okay.

I’m going to write again–the way I want. I’m going to feel good about myself again, because that guy is long gone and he can’t make me feel like garbage anymore. My class is over, I don’t have to struggle to “be serious” for anyone else anymore, and I won’t. I simply will not.

I always said I’d be the kind of person who’d say “watch me” to anybody who told me I couldn’t do something. Of course, in my imagination that other person was a real, physical human being. I never thought it would be me. But it has been, and it’s time to say “watch me” to the voice in my own head. It’s about damn time.

I hope that tonight, whoever you are, whatever you’re experiencing in your life, you say that to the voice in your head too.

Rehab for Creative Paralysis

The title of this post might be a little misleading. I don’t actually have a great rehabilitation plan for my current state of soul-death (ha), so if you’ve got any good ideas for me, don’t feel shy about sharing.

I will say that a few weeks ago my roommate, E, and I had a really interesting conversation about what it means to be a creative person in the first place–a “meaning-maker,” as it were. This conversation happened sometime around 1AM, right after we had finished watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (which will forever be one of my guilty pleasures), and I have to admit that for both of us, most of the topics we discussed and fears we expressed came straight from little pockets of pain and panic we’ve been carrying around in the pits of our stomachs for quite some time now. In other words, we’ve been so damn freaked-out lately that the only possible conclusion of our panic-trajectories was an incoherent, late-night, two-hour conversation that may have kicked up more dust than it cleaned up.

The fact is that we both come from families that have some trouble understanding our creative leanings. There’s a lot of support there, but not a lot of comprehension. My mom, for instance, believes that I’m going to change the world (and tells me so whenever she has the chance) and that I’ll be the “next big writer” of the 21st Century. While this praise is invaluable to me, it also falls a little short because I know that for the most part, she thinks of my writing as my career. This is what I am training to do so that one day it will make me some money, pay the bills, and put my kids through college. It doesn’t matter what I write as long as it provides for me. This is not exactly my point when I say that I’m a writer. Granted, being able to support myself with my work is the dream, but if it doesn’t end up happening, I’ll be okay. I’ll be fine as long as I’m published and read–if I’m not super popular or I don’t rake in the big bucks, that’s fine–as long as I’m out there, somewhere, for people to find.

When I say I’m a writer I mean that I’m a meaning-maker. I have a creative soul that needs to express itself in some artistic way, and it so happens that my inclination is toward words. If I wanted to make a lot of money I’d cater to the market, pump out some smutty “Fifty Shades of Grey” type novel (and probably a better written one, sorry), and pay off my substantial college loans. But I don’t want to put my name on something like that. I don’t want my name attached to something so meaningless.

Does that mean I want to write in some hoity-toity way, or be the next Hemingway or something? No. Absolutely not. My style is a lot less serious, or dramatic, or whatever you want to call it (I mean obviously–look at what you’re reading right now). In fact my work is pretty absurd and silly, more often than not–but I believe that silliness can hold a lot of meaning. I wouldn’t be writing like that otherwise.

As for E, she writes poetry–and let me tell you, her poetry hurts. I’ve never, in all my time inhabiting creative spheres and attending creative classes, met a poet of my generation as good as she is. I’m not just saying that because I love her like a sister–I’m saying that because every time I read her work, I have sit myself down and remind myself that I love her and shouldn’t strangle her with her own hair for being so much better than me–that, in my opinion, is how you know a writer is really good.

E thinks that people like us–creative people, meaning-makers–are healers. We feel deeply, immensely, and then we make something out of those feelings, something that has the potential to help others. I believe her, in a sense. Words heal–that’s why I read. I read to find those books in which I’ll find myself, and then I hold onto them like lifelines, looking to them for support when the going gets tough, as it so often has lately. That’s why I write–to be that for another person, to comfort another person or give another person words for a feeling they may not have known how to describe. Or, better yet, to encourage people to laugh about the things that hurt them.

The problem here is that meaning-makers are so damn susceptible to crises. Even during a good year I’ll have at least one small crisis every few months. Us writers…we tend to hate ourselves. We don’t feel good enough, we throw away our work without giving it a chance, we don’t live up to our own expectations. Think about how difficult it is to create something–no matter how silly it is. At the end of the day it’s a piece of you and you’re giving it up to the world for critique. That’s terrifying. No matter what anyone tells you about how thrilling it can be, there’s always terror in it. For the past year I’ve let that terror take over. Right now I’m really busy trying to make it back down.

All that’s left to do is hold tight to my ideals. My dreams of making meaning. And, of course, to not take myself too seriously, because where’s the fun in that?

I have to remember to just have fun.

My Faraway Travels…to good ol’ New Jersey

I’m not sure there’s anything I hate more than the first few days after spring break. Not necessarily because break is over and I’m once again forced to accept my role in the world of scholarly responsibility (please read as: forced to write too many papers in too little time), but because all anyone can talk about is where they went.

I’m not talking Virginia Beach style trips here–the people at my school are too artsy for boozin’ and cruisin’. No, people here go on Trips with a capital T. Today, a girl in one of my classes talked about her two week trip to Sri Lanka where she worked on the restoration of a temple, met a whole bunch of “baby monks,” got up every day to watch the sunrise, and saw a wild leopard. Well…that is just truly lovely, hun, but I went home to the state that currently houses Einstein’s eyeballs and Napoleon’s penis. Yeah, that’s right–beat that!

Of course, I say all of this in surprisingly good humor (even if it doesn’t sound like it–I’m too sarcastic ha). I’m always really happy to hear people’s adventure stories and I’m especially happy for my own opportunity to go home and rest. I’m really a homebody at heart, and this break was nice–I saw a lot of awesome plays in the city with S (and also celebrated his birthday, which was lovely), got to be part of an awesome independent film written and directed by my best friend, and landed an internship that I really wanted. Honestly, it was a great break.

Still, my creative soul gets a little jealous when it hears about adventures. Those trips to faraway places seem like the REAL experiences–like the experiences I would write about if I could. Sometimes, in my day to day life, I tend to feel like I’m not really living. At least I’m not really living anything worth turning into a story.

There is a lot of power in the everyday. I mean, I just finished reading The Hours for heaven’s sake–I know that everyday life can hold so much sorrow, so much joy and so much color that it actually, physically hurts. In that case I don’t know why I get so jealous of the travelers, the adventurers…I have just as much life in me as they do. But somehow I still feel impotent. I’m still trying very hard to pull myself out of the creative crisis I’ve been in since last spring, and the crisis could probably explain a lot of these feelings (it can also explain why this post is so scattered and incoherent ha).

Basically I haven’t written anything creative in a year. Every time I try, I freeze, I can’t finish anything, most of the time I can’t even make it to my desk. It’s a total paralysis of the creative soul, and it’s absolutely terrifying. But I keep trying–I have to keep trying, because what is my life without writing? Who am I without my ability to make something out of nothing but a few letters arranged in hundreds of different ways? Most of all, who would I be if I didn’t do everything in my power to pick myself up and keep going? Not somebody I’d be proud to see every morning in the mirror.

So here I am, back again…still trying. Keeping going.

At the very least I’ve come up with the name of my future memoir: “Napoleon’s Penis and Einstein’s Eyeballs: Growing Up in the Armpit of the East Coast and Why it Was Kind of Not So Bad.”

Until next time, folks.

Back with a Bang (sort of?)

Hello everyone–I’m going to keep the introduction short today. All I will say is that (like always) I’ve neglected this blog…a lot. But as you will see in a few seconds, last year got a little wild and keeping up with a blog was not the first thing on my mind. I’m going to let my writing speak for itself and leave you with this piece of creative non-fiction. Writing about all this stuff was actually quite helpful.

In the Woods Chasing Danny

One month from tonight she will open the scuffed-up trunk in the back of the closet and empty it of blankets. She will pile them on her bed on top of the extra-plush comforter and close all the windows, checking before crawling into this nest that the thermostat is as high as it will go. For reasons beyond her own understanding, she will be desperate to sweat.

*

When she is three years old her father comes home from work during her designated nap time. He places his briefcase in its usual spot by the kitchen archway and climbs the stairs, planning to check on her before taking a short nap himself. He catches her playing a game of pretend with nothing but a string of plastic beads and a travel mug. When he asks her why she isn’t napping like a good little girl, she replies “Daddy, naps are a waste of time I’ll never, ever get back.”

Later that night, in a moment heavy with prophetic certainty, he slips his wife’s nightgown over her head and in the few seconds before breath and thought are lost to them, tells her: “We have one hell of a daughter. No stupid son-of-a-bitch is gunna fuck her until she says she’s good and ready.”

*

On the dance floor he tells her he loves her and squeezes her ass to prove it. She glances at the people surrounding them and tells him to cut it out. He smiles, like it’s a private joke.

“Make me.”

*

Nine months after tonight she will experience a crisis of uncertainty. She will rebel against permanence, writing many entries in the journal he gave her, all in pencil, about the universal ability to cause pain. The next door neighbor she’s known for years could have an affair with her mother. Her college roommate could take that knife she’s using to cut a block of cheese and plunge it deep into her stomach for no reason at all.

“What matters is ability, not possibility,” she writes. “The ability to cause pain is as threatening as an outright statement of intent.”

She ponders this as she walks to and from work, remembering, despite her best efforts to forget, the familiar shape of his body, felt in an unfamiliar context, the damp condensation of his breath in her ear as he pinned her to the bed and she prayed for the strength to somehow escape the bulk of this man she loved.

She remembers all of this as the cars rush past her and she wonders why we always feel so safe on the sidewalk when a car could just jump the curb.

*

Six months after tonight she will wonder why she stayed.

*

On the dance floor he will ask if she’s alright, because she’s dancing like an awkward white girl. She will smile and promise that nothing at all is the matter, because she doesn’t want to be the girl who makes a scene, because these are his friends, not hers, because she is alone here with no one to run to, no words to explain the scene she just escaped in the bedroom because somehow it all means something different when the man you’ve run from is the one you’ve loved for two years.

*

Three nights after tonight she will have a nightmare about the words he whispered in her ear and will crawl out of bed to write them on her thigh in permanent blue marker:

“I haven’t gotten any use out of you yet.”

*

At eighteen years old she was still a virgin, and she told him that when they started dating. He promised he’d wait as long as she needed, and he kept that promise at first, choosing instead to teach her all the other ways a body could be touched without sinning. In abandoned parking lots, in dark, secret corners of laundry rooms he’d growl and call her his little slut–his and nobody else’s–and it almost made her feel special.

*

On the dance floor his friend will sneak up behind her and grind his crotch into her ass in some drunken approximation of dancing. He will pull his friend off her in a rage and she will feel protected until he turns to her with a sweet smile on his face, almost malicious. He will shimmy close to her and whisper in her ear, intimate and loud above the music, telling her, in a voice reserved for quiet lovers, that if she ever did that again he’d smack her until he felt she was sorry enough.

*

Years from tonight she will have touched other men. Her friends will tell her that they are so proud of her, and she will feel important. But years from tonight she will also still remember the imprints of his hands. She will search her memory and not have to look long before remembering the faces he made when he touched her, and she will remember that they always, without exception, looked savage.

-NS.

So I had to write this weird orientation thing for class. Basically something that upon first glance seems innocent, then becomes weird or sinister. This is what happened.

Alright everybody, come this way please, and I’ll give you a tour of the grounds before you settle into your cabins. Please keep in mind that this will be the only tour you receive, so do pay attention. You don’t want to go wandering off one night while you look for the bathroom—we always lose the best kids that way.

Over there on your left is the dining hall. Breakfast is served every morning except Thursdays at eight o’clock on the dot. If you arrive after eight o’clock you will not receive breakfast. If you arrive at all on Thursdays you will be sent home. Lunch is served at 12:30 PM and dinner at 6. If you arrive late to either lunch or dinner you will still receive food but you’ll be forced to eat at the extra staff table with Gladys, the lunch lady. Gladys doesn’t like children.

On Thursday mornings the dining hall is closed for the weekly slaughtering of the livestock. Gladys kills all the chicken herself, and a few of the pigs. Do not bother Gladys on Thursdays.

Over here is the obstacle course. You may use the obstacle course only under the supervision of a counselor. Counselors will only supervise use of the obstacle course once every other day. If the obstacle course is used every day, the obstacle course becomes tired and angry. It starts to change unexpectedly. Sometimes it traps people. One particularly bad day it strangled a boy in the rope climb. The obstacle course is a cranky, petulant thing. Stay away from the obstacle course.

Up there in that tree is the treehouse. Notice the barbed wire and searchlight. Those were implemented by Ray-ray, a counselor who believed the camp lived under the imminent threat of sentient bears with turf issues. Ray-ray lives in the woods now—if you see him, please inform me or one of the other counselors. He’s evaded capture for a few years now. Do not—I repeat, DO NOT engage Ray-ray. Also do not listen to him. There is no turf war. The treehouse is just a treehouse—unless the camp floods, in which case the treehouse can be used as an effective panic room. But get there quickly—there isn’t enough room for everyone.

Speaking of floods, beyond that small hill over there is the lake. We do not speak of the lake. We do not swim in the lake, or fish in the lake, or canoe in the lake, or even go near the lake. DO NOT think about the lake. If you think too much about the lake, it will feel threatened. It will flood the camp. Do not flood the camp. Stay away from the lake.

If you’ll follow me in this direction, we’ll pass Gladys’s private cabin. We do not bother Gladys in her cabin, especially at night, when she drags her big pot of assorted livestock blood into the moonlight and ladles it into empty milk bottles to give to Ray-ray. Sometimes she’ll dab a few drops of blood onto her chest—Ray-ray always licks them up very gently before gorging himself on the bottles.

Over here is the counselors’ cabin. Hanging from its roof over there is the cage where we lock the kids who try to get into the counselors’ cabin. Sometimes Ray-ray climbs up there and sets them free, but only to play with them for a bit.

Behind the counselors’ cabin are your cabins—you’ll find your assignments in your information packets. I recommend sweeping for spiders before falling asleep at night. But do not open the closets. I repeat, DO NOT open the closets. If you open the closets, you will be sent home.

Beyond those is the Arts and Crafts Building, where you will spend most of your time making potholders, lanyards, and the occasional knockoff designer handbag. We will collect these handbags upon completion. Do not talk about the handbags.

Sitting on that porch over there is Billy. Billy likes to greet people—see, he is already on his way over here. Ignore Billy. Do not encourage him—it heightens his morale. Billy’s morale should not be heightened. We need his morale nice and low so that he will do whatever we ask in order to gain our approval. We have been cultivating him for this purpose for some time now. Keep walking.

Beyond those trees there is a basketball court without baskets. We pretend they’re there, but it makes scoring difficult. Do not bet on the games. Do not go there at night. Gladys likes to dance there at night when the moon is right. If you start dancing with Gladys, she will never let you stop. Do not dance with Gladys.

And now we are back at the dining hall. This is the back of the building. Never enter the dining hall through the back. You will have to walk through the kitchen. Those who go into the kitchen have never been seen again. I highly recommend not going into the kitchen. It is not a camp rule, meaning that I have no power to stop you, but I very highly recommend that you avoid the kitchen.

Now that the tour is through you may settle into your cabins until dinner at 6. Tomorrow we begin bright and early with an arts and crafts session after breakfast. If the weather is nice, we may go on a short hike after lunch, but only if the trees allow it. Sometimes the trees get cranky. So go unpack your bags and rest up!

You’re in for one hell of a summer.

Thanks for Calling

“Good morning and thank you for calling Atlas Glassworks, where our products are gold standard! Ask us about our new—”

 

“Yeah, hi, hello—my name is Samuel—I need to ask a question about one of your products, because I think it’s—”

 

“I’m sorry, sir, but before you can continue I’m obligated by law to inform you that this call may be recorded for quality control purposes.”

 

“Yes, okay, sure—that’s fine—but I need to ask about this jar-thing I bought a few weeks ago—”

 

“I also need to let you know that my name is Janet—to facilitate the conversation and make it more personal.”

 

“That’s…okay—hi, Janet. Like I said before, my name is Samuel, and I need to ask a question about this decorative jar thing that I bought for my wife a few weeks ago. I think it’s—”

 

“Can you please be more specific, sir? Which jar?”

 

“I—it’s a jar. How can I be more specific? It’s made of greenish looking glass and kind of looks like one of those old time-y mason jar things. The lid is a tin screw-top. I bought it at a HomeGoods”

 

“Would you say that it tapers by two thirds of a centimeter near the rim?”

 

“Uh—yeah, sure, whatever. But anyway I gave it to my wife a few weeks ago and she really loved it and all, but I think something weird is going on because she’s gotten kind of, well, obsessive about it. She keeps carrying it around and saying something about having to protect it….I don’t think she’s showered in a few days.”

 

“Have you sought psychiatric help?”

 

“I—oh. Alright…I guess I hadn’t really thought of that. So I should take her to a doctor or something, yeah? I don’t really know what to do in this kind of situation, to be honest—has this ever, you know, happened before? Do you know? Sorry, I’m just wasting your time—I should probably go find a doctor now—”

 

“No, no! Sam—can I call you Sam?—I was only asking to make sure you hadn’t compromised your wife. It sounds as if she is the Chosen. Excuse me—company policy dictates that I play this sound-clip of fireworks for you.”

 

“Wait—no—can you shut that off, please! What do you mean ‘chosen’? Chosen for what?”

 

“Congratulations—your wife has been Chosen by Fate to protect the Limited World. It’s interesting that the Jar came to her through you. There’s usually never a third party involved.”

 

“Excuse me? Protect what?”

 

“The Limited World. The world as we know it.”

 

“Uh…I’m not sure what this has to do with a jar.”

 

“Atlas Glassworks came into being to disguise a secret—namely, the jar that your wife is probably holding right now. Inside the jar is the entire Limited World, kept safe for centuries by people like your wife, who are chosen by Fate as keepers.”

 

“No…that doesn’t make sense. We’re living in the world, and I’m looking at the jar. I can’t be looking at the jar and be inside the jar at the same time.”

 

“Yes you can.”

 

“No…I can’t. This is ridiculous. I’m just going to smash the damn thing and throw it away.”

 

“If you were to do that, Sam, the whole world would go wonky.”

 

“Excuse me? ‘wonky’? Whaddaya mean wonky?”

 

“If you break the jar, then the Limited World is without limits. Anything could happen. Trees could grow upside-down, people could teleport, fish could start talking. For all we know, the universe could just collapse! All very exciting but not at all ideal.”

 

“I’m sorry—you’re trying to tell me that the well-being and continued existence of the entire friggin universe depends on my wife and her ability to keep a jar safe? Do you know we’ve never been able to keep a single nice glass or plate in the house for more than a month? We’ve had to use plastic—even for company! And you expect her to protect a jar that she carries everywhere?”

 

“Oh not to worry, Sam—the jar has a way of…influencing its keepers. She’ll do just fine.”

 

“Just—just fine? She is whispering to a dusty Mason jar!

 

“Yes, well, the jar does tend to have a certain effect on people. But don’t worry—if your wife is strong she’ll last at least a year.”

 

Last? Whaddayya mean last?

 

“Even the strong ones tend to lose their minds in the end, at which point they’ll probably disappear. Most of them have never been found again—we suspect the jar may grant them special abilities. Perhaps they themselves become unlimited. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

 

Disa—that’s it! I want to speak with a manager. NOW.”

 

“Very well, sir—I’ll transfer you. But before I do, I wonder if you’ve heard about our newest offer on high quality lab beakers—“

 

“NOW.”

 

“Right away, Sam. Thanks again for calling Atlas Glassworks, where our products are gold standard! And please, on my behalf, say a warm hello to your wife!”  

Pips in the Real World: a Tragicomedy

Special thanks to Mac S. for knowing us entirely too well and apparently being able to predict the future. 

A busy shopping mall. Frazzled shoppers march past carrying puffy coats and large bags, all but ignoring a small, grimy-looking pet shop. MAC and NICOLE hurry out of the shop, glancing frequently over their shoulders. NICOLE’s arms are crossed awkwardly in front of her. 

NICOLE: Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.

MAC: Shh! Where the hell is Elisavet? We need to leave now.

NICOLE: Oh my GOD….

MAC: Would you calm your tits?! If you were going to freak out this badly, then why did you do it?

NICOLE: [close to tears] It looked so sad…

MAC: Okay, whatever–can we just get out of here? Look, we’re almost to the door. We can call Elisavet once we’re safely inside the car, alright?

NICOLE: [halts abruptly, angering the shoppers behind her] Mac, there’s a security officer.

MAC: Shit. Look, this is really not that difficult, okay? His job is literally to stand by a door all day–he’s probably bored out of his mind. Just calm down and he won’t even look at you funny.    

NICOLE: [takes a deep breath] Okay. Okay–I can do this. It’s easy. Hey, Mac?

MAC: What?

NICOLE: I can’t move.

MAC: Can’t–jesus christ. [she takes NICOLE by the elbow and pulls her forward] 

[MAC and NICOLE walk toward the doors. The security guard spares no more than a passing glance. Still, NICOLE is visibly agitated. She trembles and breathes heavily. Finally  her face crumples and she breaks free of MAC’s grip, running toward the startled guard.]

NICOLE: OKAY, I CONFESS. I DID IT. IT WAS ME! [she unzips her jacket and pulls a small brown rabbit from its depths, which she holds inches from the bemused guard’s face] I TOOK THE RABBIT, BECAUSE IT LOOKED SO SAD AND LONELY AND THEY HAD IT IN A CARDBOARD BOX WITH NO WATER AND NO FOOD AND LOOK–IT’S BLIND IN ONE EYE. It was me, I’m sorry, I took the rabbit.[she sobs and hyperventilates. MAC is still standing near the doors, eyes wide and mouth in a grimace]

GUARD: [pulling the distraught NICOLE back toward MAC] Is this true?

MAC: [her reddened face relaxes with a defeated sigh. She grumbles] Yeah. I couldn’t talk her out of it.

GUARD: [after regarding them quietly for a few moments] Alright, you two are coming with me. [he marches them toward a nondescript door. NICOLE is still sobbing, clutching the bunny. MAC has a hand to her face] 

***

A plain room. White walls, white linoleum floors, only one door. In one corner there is a small metal desk strewn with papers and gum wrappers, a few half-empty cups of cold coffee. Another corner has been turned into a cage of sorts, made out of floor-to-ceiling chain-link fencing. It is a temporary holding cell. MAC and NICOLE are inside it. MAC paces impatiently while (a much calmer) NICOLE sits near the back corner. The rabbit sits beside her, snuffling.

MAC: I can’t believe this. You couldn’t just stay calm, could you? I was fine with stealing the goddamned bunny because, yeah, it looked pretty friggin miserable, but you couldn’t just shut up long enough to make it out the door?! I’ve never been in this kind of trouble before. What the hell is wrong with you?  

NICOLE:[slurred] No use bumpin’ titties now, beautiful. Nothin’ to do but find a bird-killer or two while we’re in the bucket. [she nods sagely, petting the bunny]

MAC: [bewildered] What the–why the hell are you talking like that?

NICOLE: [as if it’s obvious] We’re in prison, Mac–we have to act like it.

MAC: [stares. slaps her foreheard] Somebody get me out of here.

NICOLE: [slurred] That’s more like it! When are we boardin’ the Midnight Express, huh?

[MAC holds her head in her hands and ignores NICOLE. The prison guard enters, holding a phone. Suddenly NICOLE is playing a harmonica, with gusto. MAC starts upright and lunges for the chain links.]

MAC: Please let me out of here! She’s lost it!

GUARD: [eyebrows raised, caught between amusement and confusion] I can see that. [he passes the small phone through the chain links to MAC] I’m gunna give this to you, since she seems a little…indisposed. You get one phone call. Use it wisely.

MAC: [losing her composure as the harmonica music continues. she dials hurriedly and plays with her earrings nervously as the phone rings] Elisavet! Elisavet, listen, okay–Nicole dragged me into a pet shop after we all split up and she stole a really sad looking rabbit and then gave herself up to a security guard and now we’re sitting in mall jail. She’s totally lost it–she keeps talking about birds and buckets and now she’s playing a harmonica, Elisavet, I don’t even know where she got a harmonica. You have to come get us out of here. [she listens] Yeah, I know–it’s in one of those creepy looking hallways. The one near the food court. Yeah–

NICOLE: [plaintively] Nobooody knooows the trouble I’ve seeeeen. 

MAC: Oh my god…Elisavet, please hurry. [she hangs up and hands the phone back to the GUARD]

[They wait. The GUARD leaves to meet ELISAVET at the entrance to the hallway. NICOLE alternates between singing and playing the harmonica–she continues to pet the bunny. MAC sits in a corner, covering her head with her arms. After some time, the GUARD reenters with ELISAVET, who is wearing a knit cap with a pompom on the top and sipping on the dregs of a smoothie from Jamba Juice. Her expression is stoic.] 

ELISAVET: [she faces MAC and NICOLE, sipping her smoothie noisily. She stops sipping, opens her mouth as if to speak, seems to think better of it, and resumes sipping] 

MAC: We–

ELISAVET: [raising a hand for silence] Nope.

MAC: But–

ELISAVET: [her expression remains stoic] NOPE. [she sips from her smoothie some more, then shrugs her shoulders] It’s good luck.

[MAC’s eyes widen and her mouth works as if to speak but she is speechless. She seems close to tears. Nicole hums placidly in the background. ELISAVET and the GUARD exchange a look and burst into uncontrollable laughter. MAC’s expression turns to one of annoyance.] 

MAC: what’s so funny?!

[laughter continues]

MAC: WHAT?!

GUARD: [wheezing slightly] I spoke to the owners of the pet shop. The rabbit your friend “stole” was in that cardboard box because it was the last of an unexpected litter the shop was giving away for free. Someone must have knocked over the sign.

ELISAVET: Apparently nobody wanted it because it’s blind in one eye–that’s why he was the last one in the box.

GUARD: You did them a favor!

MAC: [blinks rapidly] You. Are. KIDDINGME.

NICOLE: Does that mean I get to keep the rabbit?

***

The mall. MAC, ELISAVET, and NICOLE walk toward the exit. NICOLE coos happily over the rabbit, which she has named Mr. Tweetums, for reasons unclear. MAC looks shell-shocked, and ELISAVET vigorously rubs MAC’s back while sipping on a fresh smoothie. NICOLE lifts the rabbit to her face so she can rub noses with it, mumbling nonsense words–this affords ELISAVET her first clear view of the animal. Her face brightens considerably at the rabbit’s cuteness.

ELISAVET: Jesus-on-a-stick-lemme-touch-that-bunny!

END.  

[Disclaimer: no rabbits were harmed in the making of this Tragicomedy]

No Man Knows Where Moses Lies

On my shoulders I carry the weight of every ancestor. A small voice tells me I should mind the load, but I tell her it makes me human. I am an accumulation of couplings and gasps of breath, bad decisions and perfect circumstance, incredible odds–one piecemeal soul among thousands; and we all carry the weight of what came before. We are all Atlas, and no amount of shrugging could dislodge our complicated little worlds. Take your fingertips and press them to your shoulder blades. Feel the bone, the taut muscle, the knots of so many years and tragedies–you are stronger than you tell yourself.

Like any other human I carry the past, and I’ve taken up the future. Today I have surrendered and committed myself to my part in the puzzle. Without me, the future crumbles and the past falls. Even in the moments I dislike myself most I can accept that fact, and for this reason I choose to stay. I choose to play out my part to its preordained end, in the hopes that I lead to something better, in the hopes that someday there will be a girl far better than I, a wonderful creation with my whole history embedded in its brick.

I will never see that tomorrow, and that’s okay–because my today is monumentally important. I exist because people chose to stay in the hopes of something better, and I acknowledge my responsibility in that chain. If I haven’t gotten to the Promised Land yet then at least I can help carry my people there. God Himself buried Moses for doing the same. History remembers him with honor, though he never entered Canaan–though no man knows where Moses lies.

My Roommate is an Alien: The Drama Continues

10 December, 2012. 8:18 PM EST

I have to admit that I’m trembling as I write these words. It’s possible that I shouldn’t have provoked the subject as intensely as I did, but I was experiencing some strong feelings about this particular bit of evidence and, well, some minor violence ensued.

Allow me to briefly explain. After living with her for a time, I began to notice a few flaws in the subject’s disguise. While she sports perfect hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, the rest of her body is strangely hairless. Though she claims to shave her legs like any other human woman, I have not once seen them look prickly, even in between shaves. In fact, if you were to touch them or brush against them at any given moment of the day or night, you would be immediately astounded by the silkiness of her skin. I assure you, it’s unnatural. If any real human had skin that soft, cotton could split it open. Yet she “lives” normally, avoiding even the smallest paper cuts.

We may or may not have been engaging in a slightly heated discussion about this phenomenon (I’ll admit to a small amount of jealousy, in this case–HOW are her legs THAT SOFT?) when she attacked me with a razor.

I narrowly avoided severe injury by diving into a closet. Once I disappeared from her line of sight she seemed to calm down and remember the importance of concealing her alien violence. By the time I emerged, she was docile and enjoying another one of her parody videos.

From this point onward I must remember to be more careful. It’s possible that this was an isolated incident, but if she’s as intelligent as she seems, I’ll have to work hard to keep her from becoming suspicious of my behavior.

17 December, 2012. 3:52 PM EST

I am happy to report that the subject does not seem to suspect anything out of the ordinary. In fact, she seems to be making careless mistakes, allowing her cover to slip momentarily before regaining her composure. She must come from a planet with exceptionally boring food, because twice now I’ve watched her become overly excited about the most simple earth snacks. During these times of extreme emotion her carefully controlled expression is replaced by strange, wide-eyed, wild versions. Observe:

Exhibit A:

Image

In this photo the subject can be seen enjoying the last spoonful of Mac ‘n Cheese. Notice her crossed eyes and deranged smile. Also note that before this photo was taken, subject was bouncing excitedly in the seat. Obviously, her euphoria defied all containment.

Exhibit B:

Image

The subject enjoys a spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Notice the vacant expression in the eyes and the inability to correctly use a spoon. Obviously a moment of dumbfounding emotion.

It is the small details such as these and their tendency to add up that really make or break an investigation. If you ask me, little by little this investigation is being made.