The Sad, Bitter Truth
Getting ahead of the whiny allegations now.
The birds outside my bedroom window cawed and squawked a cacophony of expletives. From my vantage point sprawled upon my back, turning my gaze momentarily from the imperfectly painted ceiling, I could see only a sea of green treetops, and for a moment it was possible to imagine I was in the middle of some distant forest, not in my stinking, rat-infested corner of Brooklyn.
My bed was dirty. Sand had made its way into the folds, souvenirs from various trips to the beach that summer. There were brown stains — potential drips from protein shakes, or else something altogether more sinister. My sheets were crumpled in a heap in one corner, a postage stamp on the rejection letter of my mattress.
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On the ground, the emptied contents of my backpack — a broken crystal my little sister had given me, a gold hoop earring that had begun infecting my piercing a few weeks back — were mixing together nicely with different soiled thongs, cum-stiffened socks, and abandoned mesh bodycon gowns.
Squawking aside, it was a rare quiet moment in this period of my life, which, since I’d moved in March after being dumped by my boyfriend of four years, had been defined by agitating noises, overwhelming bouts of crying, and stagnant, paralyzing exhaustion.
I have to be honest: I don’t know that I’ve ever been so depressed in my life. And I survived transferring schools in eighth grade in Wisconsin as a closeted faggot who wrote exclusively in flamboyant cursive. Editor’s note: I understand this post may read as a cry for help. I want to make it clear before continuing that I’m 100% sure I’m in no danger of harming myself, I’m in therapy, I’m taking Zoloft. But I just can’t sugarcoat the truth about how I’m thinking and feeling with jokes concerning Timothée Chalamet’s broken hole right now. I don’t know what I’m hoping to get out of sharing all this — I think I’m just driven by a compulsion to get to the truth (Hercule Poirot tingz).
Last night I was woken around 2:30 in the morning to repeated snarls coming from the neighbors’ backyard. Instantly my stomach clenched and my heart sank. I knew what tidings the ruckus signaled: the next-door scraggly white dogs had returned. The snarling was quite intense: I genuinely wondered if perhaps the pair of pathetic canines were being eaten alive by rats.
Around 4 in the morning I woke again to barking. Normally the neighbors at least have the decency to take them in at night. It seemed they were ready to break new ground. I thrust open my window and wailed at the top of my lungs: “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Then I moved to the couch to distance myself from the sound, a maneuver I’d previously had to employ with my ex-boyfriend to escape his snores. Except now I had no boyfriend, no job, and the ability to instantly cry on cue if I thought about the lyrics to Lady Gaga’s “I’ll Never Love Again.”
It’s not like this depression only started after the breakup. Of course it’s intensified: the other day, during the cooldown of a workout class my friend taught (don’t worry, I’d spent the previous 18 hours comatose in bed) in which he played Lana’s “The Next Best American Record” on the loudspeakers, I began crying to myself remembering a time I listened to that song in my ex-boyfriend’s shower, wondering if he found the repetitive nature of the chorus to be annoying as he shuffled around his living room on the other side of the bathroom door. Leaving the gym yesterday afternoon, I was overcome with wracking sobs as I thought of him, and how my depression may have lost me him, interrupted only by the returning question of how others on the sidewalk might be perceiving my tears, and did I look like I was someone who might be capable of winning an Oscar one day. I thought about how correct William Shakespeare was to muse: “I know we’re not perfect but I never felt this way for no one. And I just can’t imagine how you could be so okay now that I’m gone.” I miss him so, so much. I don’t mean to paint myself the wronged victim here. I know I’m largely at fault for The Great Dumping. For instance, I can make Tilda Swinton as the Ice Witch in Narnia seem like a warm giggling grandmother when I’m in one of my schmoods.
But the depression had begun long ago. In fact I’ve been fighting it most of my life. In a newsletter written a couple months back, I teased that I’d penned something inspired by Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, but worried it might be too dark to share here. Well, fuck it. Here it is — then, it was designed as a potential introduction to a novel, though of course I’ve written not one word of it since, and while my behavior has not changed much at all, my circumstances certainly have:
After I lost my job I entered a months-long period of listlessness. In fact this era of resigned stupor had been going on for years, but it was my latest firing that gave me fresh causation to blame my drained personality upon, to shape my bad attitude into some sort of narrative.
In those days I seemed to trudge blindly through the world, not caring about the actions unfolding in front of me or their potential consequences. I’d stand at the edge of the sidewalk, toes jutting off the curb, staring ahead, swaying ever so gently as cars whizzed past inches away. Lana Del Rey blasted in my ears—I was aware of the potential eardrum damage caused by loud headphones, but I didn’t care. Each morning I’d drag myself from bed around noon, long after my boyfriend had risen to begin his work for the day, and make myself a fruit and protein smoothie. Often purple drips would escape the blender as I poured myself a tall glass. I can remember staring at violet splotches I’d spilled on the counter, on the rug, and deciding, in that moment, that I’d let those droplets congeal and fester before I would ever dare to lift another finger and wipe them up. Exhaustion was my most powerful trait. The path of least resistance was my only possible course of action.
My money drained. I took a new job in a vegan café where my coworkers were all dweeby they/thems and goody two-shoes lesbians with cartilage piercings. No one bothered to show me how to make the drinks. When I got put on bar, I guessed at what I thought ought to be in the customer’s cup. It’s all just hot milk and espresso anyway. Many times I gave people their cappuccinos knowing I’d screwed up the espresso machine, or overfrothed the milk. I didn’t care. I still don’t. At the cash register, when the machine wouldn’t work, I mouthed for people to “Just go,” begging them to get out of my face and take the free coffee, or else I overcharged them on purpose out of spite. At the end of my shift I made no attempt to mask my glee—I smiled snidely at my colleagues who were still trapped inside that bubblegum pink cell, waving through the window as I relished in my newfound freedom, but with nowhere to go except back to another dungeon: my apartment.
I spent my considerable off-time lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, willing my circumstances to change. I’d read in some book like The Da Vinci Code, or perhaps its sequel, about something called ‘noetic science,’ which claimed that thought had physical material properties and could actually change real-life objects. I wanted my thoughts to get me a better job and sex life. Instead all I could think about was checking my phone for the 305th time that day.
I scrolled through photos for hours on end—much has been made of the world’s crippling paralysis at the hands of social media, and I’d hate to contribute even more stage time to those noxious apps and that boring conversation. But let it be known an addiction to refreshing Instagram and Twitter has threatened to (already succeeded in) consuming my waking life. It’s a sickness.
At the gym, which I joined in an attempt to break up the monotony of the floor and attended only sparingly, I stared at my phone even more, this time perched upon machines which I would only use when threatened by the eyes of other exercisers needing proof that I was actually doing something.
When I dressed for the day, clothes would cascade off the shelves of my closet, smothering me as I tried to delicately remove a single t-shirt from the scramble. Nothing was easily found. I ended up wearing whatever I could wrestle from my shelves with the least amount of collateral destruction.
Achieving the simplest of tasks, like responding to an email, took a Herculean effort. Anxiety gorged on my innards, but from the outside I only looked disturbingly placid, lifeless. On the subway I’d see people wearing cool jackets, listening to music in AirPods, and it disturbed me, for I had so little money I couldn’t afford to buy nice clothes or the latest technologies. Of course, I was still comfortable, in the Greenpoint apartment that my boyfriend subsidized for me.
My boyfriend. Sweet as can be, tall, handsome, British, a brilliant artist… one would never have imagined me paired with the likes of him, I the most incredulous of all. Yet in those days I was cold to him, shutting the living room door so I could smoke weed and watch Hilary Duff’s Architectural Digest in private.
My bitter heart writhed with jealousy for everyone and everything. I longed desperately to escape the mental prison I’d locked myself in. My self-worth had deteriorated to a laughable absence—I didn’t believe I was capable of doing anything. Suicidal thoughts floated around my head constantly. I insist to this day I never felt close to acting upon them, but their constant presence cannot be denied.
I’d plenty of friends, but they all seemed to annoy me: some too distant and cold, others too eager and cloying, all insufferably horny and beautiful—I’d realized I’d surrounded myself with petulant gay guys in various shades of mental illness.
It’s in that mindset I set out to write this book.
Back in the present day, I allowed my gaze to shift from the green treetops out my window to a fly buzzing against the screen. I spent a good portion of each day murdering flies with a copy of The Velvet Rage, given to me by my ex. When the flies were crushed into an oozing splatter, their legs and innards would often be blown by the breeze into my bed. I’d turn my head and find a loose appendage inches from my face, and I’d do nothing besides gently flick it away.
In fourth grade I came into possession of a Venus Fly Trap. For the unfamiliar, these are plants that lie in waiting for unsuspecting bugs to land on their claw-like petals, only to snap abruptly and eat the unlucky insects alive. In fourth grade, I lived in a home without a fly infestation. I worried my new plant would starve, so I fed it an orange Tic-Tac, naming it after the curiously fresh mint with a delighted grin. Tic-Tac’s jaws received my offering, turning the little tangerine pill into a liquid before the whole plant shriveled and died in front of my eyes. Now, I live in a home crawling with large flies. My roommate bought a Venus Fly Trap hoping to appease the situation, but it, too, appears to be in danger of shriveling toward a slow and painful death. Don’t we all.
After crying on the streets of SoHo after the gym, I went to Joanne Trattoria, of all places. As is my custom, I took out my headphones a few blocks early to mentally get used to not having music playing before speaking to people. I saw my good friend Molly, and we had martinis and meatballs (actually, she had a drink called The Edge of Glory, which contained tequila). My other lovely friend Natalie joined us, and we headed over to Lincoln Center to see Memoria. I felt better after laughing with them.
I’d been dreading revisiting Lincoln Center, since it’s where Tom and I had our first date, and where we would come annually to celebrate our love. But New York gave me an unexpected reprieve: the beautiful fountain and steps of Lincoln Center’s courtyard were taken over by a disgusting, loud concert setup that rendered the locale completely unrecognizable. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Sitting in Memoria, which stars Madame Tilda Swinton, I thought to myself: “Am I actually incredibly stupid?” It’s a question without a clear answer. The film had gorgeous cinematography, but was incredibly slow-moving. I didn’t get it. It didn’t sweep me away from all of my problems. But sitting there in that movie theater, alongside ten of my favorite friends, I didn’t feel alone. I felt like someone with a glimmer of hope, who just might figure it out and survive and thrive after all.
I spent the past week in Fire Island with a bunch of my lovely gay guys and lesbians. It was magical, blah blah blah. It wasn’t perfect — there were moments I felt I wasn’t hot enough, or boy enough, or cool enough to exist in some of these bacchanalian nightlife cesspools. But mostly it was heaven. There were days so brimming with joy, and family, and belonging, that not only did I feel happier than I had felt in months, sitting watching the sunset alongside homosexuals of all ages, but I became privy to a greater implication: that if days like this are possible now, they can happen again. And even if not every 24 hours brings me joy, knowing that incredible days are still attainable gives me the wherewithal to carry on.
Few final things:
I read the book Nevada, by Imogen Binnie. One of the best things I’ve ever read. More on that in the future.
Guides to getting a safe abortion by state here.
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