Monday, July 21, 2014

cloud cover

Depression is to the _ as the cloudcover is to the field.

Standing in a Starbucks I hear an old man respond angrily to an inquiring barista. She is a heavily bracketed, peppy woman in her late fifties with salty hair and a grim, relentless smile. ' How is your wife, ' she asked. ' Dead! ' he barked. The grim smiling barista took a step back with her shaker. ' Oh, ' she said.'  I was feeding her. She didn't look good. They told me she had more time! I left the room and she died! ' he cried out, shaking his head to the floor. His hands were so tightly clenched they looked like tree stumps. He repeated ' They told me she had more time. ' The barista had replenished her grim smile and tossed the shaker determinedly. ' I'm so sorry, ' she replied. ' Was it a sarcoma? '
The old man stared across the room, one leg crossed over the other at the ankle, his arm bent over the barista partition. He looked like he was talking about taxes. Or his last vacation.

I paid for his coffee without saying anything to him and he said nothing to me about it in return.

Our eyes met. I felt a terrible and infantile sadness that I might, forever- now almost 40, close to eternity in our culture- be the kind of woman who when in the company of men, wonders if any of them has ever raped or molested a female. Even old men who have just lost their wives to a possible sarcoma.

My mind can see, in a moment, the endless possibilities of the circumstances these molestations could have come about. He was drunk, and had been rejected by his girlfriend for the millionth time, and this girl- she was a nobody, a mouse, and his father had always talked this way about women, and even though he was going to be different, this one time- well, no one would know. She was nobody. Or he was in his late thirties, and found himself with a Lolita on his lap at the slumber party of his youngest daughter, and his business was failing and his wife was skin and bones and he was alone on this planet, as alone as a moth, or a lizard, or a rock thrown into a field, and he had been hiding the idea his entire life that it was socially unacceptable but true that young girls liked the sexual attentions of older men, that it gave them confidence and esteem. Or maybe he was a teenage boy and his father always emasculated him and his girlfriend said 'not in my underwear' for the thousandth time and he had every image of every man taking what he wants from a woman- so many images- stored in his brain, just enough- more than enough- to reassure his subconscious that somehow in the scheme of things this was, how it goes.

The list is long.

I can't feel my fingers, I can't feel my toes, this is the song, you know how it goes... depression isn't an essay that ends with a period or even, an ellipse. Depression is not a book, nor can its shadowy form be captured in oil, photo, or art, however great. For me, the only true expression of depression is in the face of mammals. Human beings, monkeys, tigers, lions, sea lions, their trembling whiskers turned downward.

Depression is to _ as sea lions are to _

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