True Romance

When My Depression elopes with a hermit crab, I have no qualms whatsoever, but I also have no name for it.
The Hermit and My Depression honeymoon on a choppy Central American coast, but quickly decide to buy a cozy, sea cave condo where the two of them take turns lovingly interrogating each other, letting the salt water douse their doubts and quibbles.
Whenever My Depression starts to fold itself, cowering under an impressive volcanic rock, The Hermit scuttles over to My Depression, eyes piping hot-black and full of anticipation.
The Hermit says, Darling, Sweetheart, Light of my Life, we’ve been through all this before. The best way to shake it is to stand up, move, call someone, turn on a light.
All My Depression hears or sees, though, is The Hermit gnawing on sea bubbles, words coming out as Bloop Bloop Bloop.
The Hermit goes on, legs feeling a little rubbery all of a sudden: For God’s sake, I know we don’t have cellphones down here, or light switches, but the experts know what they know because they’re experts!
Bloop Bloop Bloop-bloop, is what My Depression hears.
The Hermit tosses a nonexistent lock of hair off its shell-skull, continuing, I admit I’m confused, and disappointed, again. Is it all right to share this? After all, we’re betrothed.
The word betrothed makes My Depression see a sheet of black migraine sprockets.
Remember when we first met, how we frolicked in the sticky sand, so connected and in-tune? It made me feel like I’d swallowed the sun. I’d never been so happy.
My Depression yanks on its eyebrows like a bored simpleton, and when nothing gives, My Depression does a vicious jerk to its head of sea hair, pulling out a clump, bloody roots floating away with the tide.
What I’m saying, The Hermit says, is it seems like you’ve changed,
Bloop.
What I’m saying is, I don’t know if we’re working out together anymore. As a thing, I mean. A couple.
Bloop Bloop.
Now The Hermit has a hard time looking My Depression in the eyes, yet still manages to say, It’s probably me, not you, though it sure seems like, in this case, it’s all you. I’ve collected circumstantial evidence to prove it.
My Depression tilts its ear in the direction of its other ear but merely hears, BloopBloopBloopBloopBloop.
The Hermit throws up its faux claws, which are really more like stumpy toenails painted black, and says, You’re not saying Jack. Where are your words, Depression? Talk to me. I need to know how you feel.
Bloop.
Okay, that’s it. I can’t do this anymore, even though it’s only been something, like, 19 hours.
Bloop.
Last chance, Depression. Kiss me like you mean it. Like you really mean it. If you do, well, maybe there’s still hope for us.
The soles of My Depression’s pruned feet start to twitch and shake, sand coiling up from the bottom of the sea cave, as if unleashing a spirit, a sea sprite, or just a regular old-fashioned genie.
Although it’s not My Depression at all, but rather a succession of enormous slaps, each as large as castles, beating down from above.
Tsunami!
The Hermit is blinded by swirling bits of grit and broken shells.
Shit! I can’t see! We’re fucked!
Darkness and ugliness are My Depression’s best friends, two pals he can tell anything to, and he’s unbothered by the ruckus.
My Depression sways through the broiling murk, finds The Hermit choking on nasty sea detritus, and performs a slick Heimlich maneuver. Before The Hermit can say Thanks or Bloop, My Depression takes The Hermit’s hand firmly, and like sleeping otters, the pair float through a seam in the sea cave, drifting past their hometown surf, past the Pacific and Atlantic and Adriatic and Indian oceans, past every sea in the world, and any others yet to be imagined.

3 Comments

  1. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    HI Len, Super. One of those cathartic takes on depression that you write so well. The Bloopbloopbloop imagery nails what it feels like to hear helpful expressions from loving others when in the throes of a deep depression. The turn to the tsunami is a surprise, and I loved that rescue of the hermit crab and the floating through all the oceans together. Is it disaster that finally links us together in the end despite our encasement in our darkest selves? I love this piece. You will, I hope, send it out for others to swim with in their sea caves?

  2. Alina Stefanescu

    “When My Depression elopes with a hermit crab, I have no qualms whatsoever, but I also have no name for it.” Perfect first line. Perfect set-up. I read it several times to savor it.

    You characterize My Depression and The Hermit so well–they became real for me. They were living characters and it changed the way the words took up space in my mouth.

    “Whenever My Depression starts to fold itself, cowering under an impressive volcanic rock, The Hermit scuttles over to My Depression, eyes piping hot-black and full of anticipation.” Gorgeous imagery. I did think, looking back, that maybe the hermit crab in first line deserves a capital lettering as well, for consistency, and to introduce him in this legendary way from the start? Just a thought.

    God, I love the bloops. The bloop sounds and the near-bubbles. And the direct address of the depression as character apart from self!!! Just perfect. “Last chance, Depression. Kiss me like you mean it. Like you really mean it. If you do, well, maybe there’s still hope for us.”

    So much to quote and share and celebrate in this piece–and so little feedback from yours truly.

    You could, if you wanted, add some awkward language in smooth places, like: “Shit! I can’t see! We’re fucked!” could be “Shit! I cannot see! We are now fucked!” Just to estrange it a bit, to make it pop and occupy that folkloric space where characters speak like myths.

    “My Depression sways through the broiling murk, finds The Hermit choking on nasty sea detritus, and performs a slick Heimlich maneuver. ” Lovely images again. And the Heimlich, the world intruding on the world in this lovely way.

    I love how this ends by moving outside of the present, moving into the future: “past every sea in the world, and any others yet to be imagined.” Gorgeous work!

  3. John Van Wagner

    Len
    Love the first line, the humor (tinged with black as it may be), the irony, the invocation of an absence “I have no name for it”.
    Since Alina has done a line-by-line, I’ll tag along, somewhat.
    Certain word-clusters pin this down for me— doused “doubts and quibbles” (suggesting bubbles), “eyes piping hot-black”, the Hermit “gnawing on sea bubbles”(bubbles! As predicted!), the word “betrothed”… a magnificent word that draws itself out and can’t help but invoke “loathed”—and sound-clusters: (bloopbloopbloop).
    The whole is sort of like sessions with a psychiatrist I had when I was seven, when we’d play with miniature bendable people, arranging them in and around a miniature house as he tried to decipher me, with a light, playful tone that says, I making THIS up because I can’t talk about THAT. In the adult version, fables and fairy tales that (wink-wink) assume that same lightness and oversimplification to model something that is truly underwater. So the transparent falseness of the two floating off at the end through infinite oceans is no narrative disappointment, but the trope of a feint—SQUIRREL!, in effect. There are almost subliminal places we suspect we aren’t really underwater at all—maybe that we’re really playing with sock-puppets: “faux claws, which are really more like stumpy toenails painted black”. And overall, adding to that uncanniness, the alarming, creeping sense that we could fall THROUGH this fable into an abyss, like Wily Coyote, suddenly woke.
    So, pretty great.
    Damn, it’s getting late.

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