Tag Archives: depression

Ledge

Elliston Craw stood on the ledge and looked down, slowly so as not to toss his balance. The view from seventeen stories above the ground was unsettling at first. The ledge extended a good three inches past the tips of his shoes, so he felt sure enough that he wouldn’t slip off too easily. His back and arms were pressed against the bricks behind him as if he were holding the wall back from tumbling down to the street below.

A gust of wind ripped by him and while he felt secure in his footing at the moment, the brush of the wind’s fingers caused him to jerk and to catch himself as if he might fall.

He closed his eyes and tried to relax a little. He took as deep of a breath as he dared and then stared out across the city. This might have been a mistake.

Initially, his being here was a clear case of his curiosity, clouding…no, obliterating his better judgment. For eight years, the window next to his desk at Harlow & Jenks afforded him the opportunity to stare out into the wild blue and gray of city and sky to wonder. What do pigeons do all day? Does that ledge go all the way around the building? Is it strong enough to hold someone? How long might it take to go all the way around the building on the ledge? Would anyone notice him being gone? Is seventeen floors high enough?

He wasn’t sure what actually tipped the scales between wondering and doing. It could have been seeing the window washers last Tuesday. It could have been that it hadn’t rained in eight days so everything was pretty dry. It could have been that in eight years of wondering he realized that he did and awful lot of wondering and very little doing.

The window in the older building opened easy enough. The height of his desk and the first drawer accommodated his getting to the ledge as if they were designed to do so. Actually standing on the ledge and getting adjusted so the he wouldn’t fall was a bit slow going, but he managed and the inching down across it was like walking, once he got a pattern down.

It was when he stopped to embrace the moment that things sort of changed.

He looked down again. It was exhilarating. It was the most dramatic thing he had ever done. It was life.

Another gust of wind raked over him and he tried to get even closer to the wall as if it might hold him if he got unsteady.

His goal, if he even had one, because at this point he realized this was all pretty crazy, was to step out onto the ledge, go around the outside of the building, get back inside and finish his work on the Whorton account.

But now.

A glimmer of the depth of what was happening crept into his thinking. This was not normal. Normal people may think about walking on ledges, but normal people usually discount those notions quickly in lieu of the greater call of a food craving or other useless distraction.

This was…

A lot of his thinking stopped when one thought, or the memory of the thought pushed everything away. Is seventeen floors high enough?

He had a nice place to live. He had a decent job that, while it would never make him a rich man, it would give him a decent life and the occasional trip out of town. Still…

Is seventeen floors high enough?

Elliston Craw closed his eyes. He opened them again to look at the sun. Another heart gust of wind blew towards his direction.

Writer

Copper Channing made a living from the extreme misfortune of others. Writing horror novels, and best sellers at that, gave him access to a world he would have never known otherwise. Had he not called in sick to work at the foundry and picked up a pen and a legal pad that day at the ripe old age of twenty-one, who knows where he would be today.

Still, despite the wealth and fame, Copper Channing suffered from the very same thing every mailman, housewife, café chef, preschool teacher and everyone else in between suffered from. He was dissatisfied. Despite his very enviable position he yearned for something more. It was a ‘grass is greener’ mindset that allowed the blues to settle deep in his soul. It generated a certain loathing for his position, a disconnection with his entire accumulated body of work and a nauseating guilt that came with wanting something else, something better, in the face of having so much already. It was greed and immaturity and envy wrapped up into one distasteful ulcer of woe.

It wasn’t the writing. He loved the writing. He loved the fact that words had given him so much. Where his hands excelled at typing, they proved to be of little use to him in any other endeavor. The writing was his still and long-standing silent partner, the agent of evil he sold his soul to in exchange for security and position.

It was what he was writing that was the problem.

Perhaps it was because success came so fast and the struggle fairly slight. It took twenty-three months from the time he scratched those first words onto that pad, until he secured his first publishing contract. It wasn’t that he was a particularly gifted writer, but more that his imagination allowed him to conjured the darker images that the general public yearned to look at. He simply wrote down what he saw in his mind.

Kill Eye, was his first book to top the best-seller lists pretty much everywhere. Plastic, followed the year after and triggered a windfall of luck which carried him over the years to fifteen best sellers, eight top grossing films and a mountain of awards which he kept in boxes in a storage unit at the back of his property.

Still, he would give it all up today, or so he told himself, if he could write something real. And what was real? He wrestled with the notion that because horror came fairly easy to him it lacked soul and skill. It was hack-work, and the popularity of his product showed him, at least in this moment, that the reading public required little from him beyond a good reason to invest in a nightlight and a vivid description of one of a hundred ways a human could be disemboweled. It was tripe.

He sold millions of books, but could even one of them compete as one of the great American novels? He created relationships and families, but had he ever written a great love story? He would likely be remembered beyond his time, but in the same hallowed halls as Hemingway, or Shaw, or Eliot or would he be packed into the circus tent of lesser writers known for their mass appeal, and not so much for the mastery of their craft?

He tried. October Frost had the makings of a great love story until the text, or his mind, demanded the introduction of a wraith. It ended up being one of his biggest, not because of his insights into the tender, fragile state of love, but more into the inter-dimensional and explosive struggle for the human soul at the end.

In Ferryman’s Wake, his exploration of the complications that come with the loss of a loved one showed depth and promise, but that was all but dashed with the appearance of Old Hamm, one of the many characters he created to represent Satan, or really, the darkness in all of us.

Even now, having traded legal pads for processing power long ago, he sat before the blank screen intent on writing something truly moving, or truly funny, or truly anything to show that his years of practice had not gone to waste. Anything to show that he could connect on a deeper level. Yet, all his head would allow was blood and a thousand gruesome ways in which to release it.

Ghost

Time was indefinable. She no longer marked the days. The sun cycles and the passing seasons simply went on as they always had, one after the other, with little consequence. She no longer wrapped herself in the warmth of sunbeams or reveled in the wonder of the moon. She was…cold.

She no longer sat, or stood, or ran. She did not hunger. She did not thirst. At least, not in a way she could describe. Still, there was a need, a yearning for something long gone. Her desire to embrace it, to possess it stirred a rage she had not known before, for all the yearning and pain, defining the thing seemed beyond her.

Visitors made infrequent stops to the house where she made her home. They often brought with them at least a glimmer of that which stirred her desires and being with them seemed to quell the longing, but not the need. That deep-rooted need and the inability to satisfy the hole it created seemed very much like an insatiable hunger. A hunger that often stirred the rage.

Like most visits, the welcome is only as good as the guest. She believed it was incumbent upon the guest to know when to go. If they could not give her what she needed, she had no use for them. They crowded her. They neglected her. They ignored her. They taunted her with their lives…their life.

The realization strikes like a crushing hammer blow.

Life.

She could not feel in a way she thought she remembered. She could not touch. She sought herself in reflective glass, but nothing was revealed. She sought herself in the residue of daily life, a pile of dirty clothes, a used coffee mug, a well read newspaper, but things remained as they were where she was unless they, her visitors made them otherwise.

Life.

They laughed. They cried. They yelled, and battled, and forced both violence and love upon each other with insurmountable restrictions and self-serving conditions. And all the while, she could only observe and taste the tiny scraps of life’s energy cast off by the fools who knew so little about the value in what they inherently wasted.

She was…or was she?

She was, but she wasn’t.

She was once, but now she is just an echo. A shadow one seems to glimpse behind a door, or that scurries to the corner when the light flickers on.

She once was, but now she only lurks in the mists of time, trapped in an astral plane that is the world she once knew so well, and like them, took for granted.

Matter

Chalmers Penn began to think he didn’t matter anymore. He knew he still existed, but even when he looked in the mirror, he seemed a little less there. Not mentally, that was all good, but he could almost swear that he was fading.

This required some tests. He started on Monday. Something small, just in case it was a mental thing, he wore tennis shoes to work. Not is decent, casual Friday ones, but the ones he used to cut the grass, air-conditioned from a few holes and dyed stark green from the blood of a million blades of grass.

He had no meetings. No deliveries and his lunch pal, Bill was out of the office for two days so Monday seemed to be a bust. There were no opportunities for people to see his shoes, except for maybe Betsy whom he stopped by to ask a question, but she was deeply entrenched in a phone conversation, busily handling one of her standard fires and neglected to see him.

On Tuesday, he decided to bump things up a bit by wearing his old college Hawaiian party shirt and his grass cutting shoes. He had a fairly big meeting with Jolsten that afternoon and surely it would be a topic for discussion. Unfortunately, just as he got to Alice’s desk, Jolsten’s admin, she was cancelling his meetings for the rest of the afternoon and was informing Bolger, Jolsten’s boss, since his afternoon was clear, golf was a go.

On Wednesday, Penn decided to keep the shirt and the shoes and bump things up by getting drunk at breakfast and staying drunk all day. Not boomingly, stupidly drunk, but impaired enough to be noticeable. Near lunch time Bill swung around as he normally did, peeked over the rim of Penn’s cubicle and then wordlessly, hastily stepped away.

Did he see me or did he see me? Chalmers wondered. “Hey, Bill…” but Bill was gone.

In the cafeteria, by himself, he filled his tray with pretzels and three orders of fish strips. He stopped hiding his vodka bottle and left it right there on the tray next to the two cans of lemon-lime soda he would use to mix it in. He noticed no stares, no slight comments…nothing. In line to pay, the cashier offered a smile and a pleasant exchange to the lady before him and then visually skipped him to greet the man after him. He stood at the end of the line while she took three more customers before deciding to leave.

Thursday he avoided the mirror. He was afraid more of what he might not see than what he expected to see, less of him. His phone never rang. It was eight days since he received a text from anyone, and he was nearly run over by that bicycle delivery boy. He decided that he must take one more, potentially catastrophic test. He went to work entirely naked, with a few drinks in him for courage, and went about his day.

On Friday, Chalmers Penn’s apartment was quiet and empty. A few dirty dishes stood in the sink unattended, a clock on a bookcase ticked as it had dutifully for years, but Chalmers Penn was nowhere to be seen.

Dinner

Lewis opened the door to the fridge with a sort of blind ignorance tied to a wish that maybe this time, there would be something there he might not be responsible for,  some kind of gift left by fairies, or trolls, or leprechauns.

Wrong again.

A quick visual survey confirmed the only things in there were things he put there and hadn’t used yet. Most of the things he couldn’t use without getting more things. Swinging the door wide, the light came up on three beers, two pounds of butter, an expired jar of green olives where the remaining two olives were floating in a murky brine, a dried up carrot, a tiny jar of orange marmalade someone got him from a recent trip to the sunny south and one slice of American cheese where the corners were getting hard because he neglected to close the Ziplock properly.

What was he doing with so much butter?

He grabbed one of the beers, now dinner, and the carrot. He tossed the carrot into the garbage bin, snapped the top off the beer and held it to his head. It was so hot he was convinced there was a sizzle when the can touched his skin.

The air conditioning blew out earlier this morning and being a bit late on the rent certainly didn’t seem to motivate the super into coming up to have a look at it.

The first course of dinner went down fast. He barely tasted it. He opened the fridge again, grabbed a second beer – the main course – and forced himself to slow down enough to make it last. He would try not to get at the last one tonight. What could be dessert might have to be breakfast in the morning.

He plopped himself down onto the chair of his nook-sized kitchen table and stared up at the bright, naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Sweat dripped down his face.

“What a mess,” he said softly to himself. It might have been the fifth time he said it in the last thirty minutes and he lost count of how many times it rolled across his mind this week. It was only Wednesday. There were still many more eye-opening moments of full failure realization to go before he had two solid days to wallow in his unfortunate circumstance free of the burden of weekly annoyances.

Of course, the rent was due on Friday, really two months worth now, and while part of his mind churned on any one of a number of creative excuses for not having the full amount this month, the other half was scheming away at how he could get the money in two days, and how getting the money would certainly turn things around…or at least start to turn things around.

All of his thoughts began with phrases like, “if I could just,” or “if only.” Phrases you might hear on a Saturday morning cartoon where Scooby and the gang are about to be done in by this week’s mystery, when “if only” results in a misstep, that results in an accident, that results in everything working out and the kids becoming heroes for saving the day.

Lewis had some pretty big “if onlys.” Short of running around his apartment shoving bookcases and trying to turn light fixtures to possibly reveal a secret passage or untold wealth, he was pretty certain there was no neat and clean Scooby ending awaiting him at the end of a 90 second commercial break.

He got up and walked to the fridge. It was probably just as good a night as any to have a little dessert.

The List

Percy Collins had a list a mile and a half long filled with things he had to do. He wasn’t sure how many items actually fit on a list a mile and a half long. Of course, it was theoretical. If there were an actual list, the font size used to create it would be critical in determining the number. It was easier to just say, a million.

Of that million, missing amongst the stare at the moons, the climb the mountains, the take exotic trips to Canada, was ‘become a successful businessman.’  

He didn’t care much about becoming a successful businessman, and by much he meant, not at all. That said, he seemed to spend most of his time working toward just that. He joined his father’s business shortly after college. After his father got sick, he took on the whole of the business full-time. He worked hard. He worked long hours. He was good with people, and he supposed to some degree, he was good at business.

Still, when he rolled out of bed in the morning he was about as excited to get to work as one might be excited to go to the doctor, a doctor who kept trying to find the elusive cause to a dull and nagging pain or a spreading rash. There never seemed to be a cure or resolution. It never ended. It just led to another series of appointments, pokes, prods and tests.

A younger Percy fancied himself an artisan. He was good with his hands. He liked the notion of looking back and seeing something stand for a day’s work. He liked tile. He liked baking. They were simple concepts and honest trades, but often seen by some, mostly in the business world, as ‘less than” because they rarely garnered the potential of huge deals, huge payoffs, and a businessperson’s warped sense of professionalism.

He went to work. He did his job. He was honest, and dedicated and worked to improve himself. Then he would go home, eat dinner, have a nightcap and nod off in front of the evening news thinking of his list. Canada…

Time

The quiet settled in, really set in, to the point where you could hear it for the first time since they left.

Devlin eased himself back into his chair and closed his eyes. The visits were growing fewer and farther between. He noticed it mostly after his Marie passed. It was partly the time and the sense of sadness he was sure, but also because everyone was getting older and working to control the things in their own lives that often steer people far away to places unknown.

Wrapped in the quiet, he played his favorite moments of the long weekend over in his head, creating memories like photographs he hoped he could recall later, their faces, their smiles, their laughter.  Not just the images, but the warmth as well. He drew a deep breath and smiled.

The laughter was good, so were the hugs, but the laughter was like medicine, especially from the small ones.

He didn’t want a pall of sadness to settle over their visits, so he tried his best to compensate for Marie’s absence, though he was admittedly lost in the kitchen.

He looked over at that last family portrait, the one where Dex insisted in using his “TV smile,” and Alex, who at the time insisted on being called, “Jayne” because it was more grown up.  They never had another one done. They talked about it, but it never happened. He studied the faces, the eyes. He missed them already.

Where does the time go?