That night, in October.
He’s there when I walk in. Wearing a Buzz Lightyear costume and holding a bottle of expensive Tequila. Did you know Tequila is the one liquor that isn’t a depressant? I’d learn that fact much later, but it could have helped me that night. Multiple drinks in, we arrive at the party fashionably late. It’s the kind of party you’ve seen in movies where the conversations are all separate but everyone’s saying/dancing/doing the same ol’ thing.. My roommate starts talking with Buzz, and as I put out my hand to introduce myself he calls me —
He didn’t know I changed my outfit five times before going out.
He didn’t know I secretly took six shots in my room before greeting my friends.
He didn’t know last week I called my mom at 4am asking her if I could move home.
He didn’t know a month before tonight I started antidepressants and felt guilty every morning I took them because in some small way I had failed normalcy.
He didn’t know that the word he called me was the exact way I felt about myself.
He calls me insignificant as if it’s a dig but also a compliment and as soon as the word has left his lips he has moved on from ever thinking of me again. My trigger gets pulled while I’m walking outside away from anyone who could see my tears as they fall down my face. I am agreeing with him and hating him all at once. My roommate, ever so awkward and protective, follows me outside. Her hand hits my shoulder, and I accept that as permission to bellow out a noise from my gut. A cry for help. A cry of embarrassment. A cry of drunk. Drunk and feeling alone in the world, confessing thoughts I’ve had for months but refused to share. I can’t have razors in the bathroom anymore and I haven’t gone to class in three weeks and it’s probably a good idea if she lets her parents know that I’m ‘getting bad’ again just in case something happens. Not aware I’m shouting, I’ve forgotten about Buzz Lightyear and now my fight, my words, my problem is with the world. With God. With the notion that I may just live the rest of my life as a sad human being, having to hear my mother’s cries on the other end of the phone as she pleads for me to just try, try, try, please try.
Vodka stings my breath as I turn to see the fellow party goers on the deck, staring at me with mouths open. A camera’s flash turns on. I have to leave, I know staying isn’t an option, not with villainous assholes flirting with prettier girls and friends who didn’t ask for my breakdown. My roommate tries to follow and I tell her it’s just a walk around the block, but I know there’s no going back. I lie to her as I have lied to everyone, and I add a tally to the chalkboard counting my mistakes. Soon I’m surrounded by nothing. This feeling in my chest, this pain, it’s growing. There’s a voice in my head saying he’s right. Saying at least someone had the balls to say it. Saying that’s probably how everyone else feels. I can feel my phone buzzing and without looking at the screen, I throw it away. A friend slows down to offer me a ride and I curse at him until he’s gone. I will go down with this ship. It’s not just a Dido lyric. It’s my fucking life. I keep walking, feeling the early morning air against my bare legs and the pain in my chest increase with each step.
I wake up covered in blankets. I’m in my bed. My light is on. My alarm is blaring. Work in an hour. I’ve slept on my dirty clothes, again. I rise with a headache and crawl my way to the bathroom. My roommate is sleeping in the hallway. With a nudge, she wakes and smiles, hugging me tight. She reaches into her back pocket and returns my phone, which she found in a bush while she and a few other volunteers retraced my steps. The shame sets in. I don’t remember throwing my phone. I don’t remember coming home. I don’t remember anything. I ask why she slept in the hallway. Her face changes.
I cried in my sleep that night. Not the first time, wouldn’t be the last. But it was the first time I had woken up to her in the hallway, where she had sat many nights before… Allowing me to grieve my life before depression in private, yet making sure my loneliness never became a reality. As I try to recover my memory, I realize I can’t remember Buzz Lightyear’s face. Not his smile or his cheekbones or his hair. But I remember her face, when I confessed what I promised myself would remain secret. I remember her focus, her attention that was only on me as I walked away into the night. And her face that morning, filled with nerves and patience and a whole lotta love. She drove me to work, our eyes glued to the sunrise over the lake as we laughed and sang and continued living our lives.
I still remember that morning. I actually still yearn for that morning. I miss it, somehow. I got to work early, and drank my orange Gatorade on the rocks of Lake Superior, and cried and cried and cried and cried. I broke off a piece of paper and wrote down three words that have shaped the rest of my life. ‘You have depression.’ I kissed the page, folded it down, and watched it sail into the water. A plea of sorts, a thank you for my caretaker. An agreement to try, try, try, please try.
This story begins with a boy. I truly don’t remember his name, but it’s probably John or Mike or Asshole. It begins with a boy, but it ends with women. It’s a story about Kelly, who sat outside my door, and drove me to work, and told me — every time I needed to hear it — that nothing is permanent.
How significant is that?