I've wanted to write these past few days, but generally find myself thinking: “What’s the use and what’s the use?” (to quote Gertrude Stein). That and the fact when my depression hits, it knocks all the words out of me. A bad thing, insofar as words hold me up; a good thing, insofar as they (when uttered by the inner sadist, the inner arsonist, etc.) pull me down. Anyway, it’s surprisingly quiet in my head. I feel like I just tumbled out of an urban myth or a National Enquirer Lede:
Last month a 36-year-old graduate student from N__ Y___, name withheld, was found early one grey morning, shivering and amnesiac, in a tub of ice with a paisley-shaped wound on either side of her head. When addressed by first responders, the victim seemed incapable of speech, humming instead a little tune over and over. “We couldn’t quite get it,” said EMT M. Crump. “At first I thought it was the Hellman’s Mayonnaise jingle, but my partner picked up distinct quotations from the Meow Mix and Murphy’s oil ditties. Very disturbing.” Luckily, attending gnostician Piri Quag was not so vague about the cause of this strange behavior. “Even before I got in there, I knew that this was a backroom double Logosectomy.” And what exactly is a double Logosectomy? “Simply put, it’s when you go in and remove that part of the mind where the feeling bone’s connected to the thought bone, and the thought bone’s connected to the word bone.”
It turns out that this grisly crime is on the rise as Logos nodes are fetching more and more on the black market. “We’ve traced the spike in demand to the AmerEurasian Greeting Card syndicate, which is testing these nodes for use in their next generation of talking cards,” said Quag, who regularly cooperates with agencies like the FBI and Interpol on such cases, "but also to a radical fringe of bioengineers who’ve seen the fortune to be made from implanting these in pets. On the one hand, you have to give these people credit for their ingenuity; but then, they’re really cutting against the nature of things, aren’t they? I mean, I love my chinchilla, Flinders, but I wouldn’t want him quoting Elizabeth Barrett Browning to me at bedtime, I don’t think…”
As for the victims of this strange, surging industry, what lies in store for them? “Well, they can still live productive lives. The more expressive ones can always find work scaring the birds off crops. And if they’re leggy enough, double Logosectomies thrive in the fashion world. As for single Logosectomies, the world belongs to them. Almost everyone in Congress, Hollywood, the media, advertising, Big Business and Wall Street is missing part of their feeling-thought-word axis.”
As for the unnamed graduate student, she seems to be doing remarkably well, considering. Seated near a window, her leaf green bandages coordinating almost perfectly with her hospital booties, she stared benignly into the middle distance as Dr. Quag patted her on the head. “She eats a lot, sleeps loads, makes puppets out of paper bags and keeps humming some sort of lieder,” said Quag, who was momentarily jetting off to Capri for a conference on Aphasic disorders. “Hell, I wish I could have such a nice rest.”
Anyway, it’s hard for me to keep track of what’s happened in the past week and a half. I’ve had my oceanography class a couple of times. Worked on Saturday, made a few bucks. I finally picked up my M.Phil. degree, and hardly knew what to feel when I glanced at it on the train. On the one hand, ‘I earned this’; on the other, ‘No you didn’t, she (the past me) did. You’ve done fuck-all.’ My boyfriend and I drank to it, drank to several things… Have read a bit; written a very little bit (but so awkwardly, tensely, sloppily).
Last Friday was a highlight. After much seesawing between going and not going, I set off on a daytrip to see a temporary exhibit of paintings up in the Hudson Valley. The rationalization for ‘wasting’ all that time (and gas) was: “It might help me with my dissertation.” But I didn’t really believe that, and it turns out I was right. The value of the day was in the going. I’ve backpacked across Europe by myself, and India; have set off on 60-mile walks through UK, sleeping and eating where I can. Shoot, when I was a junior in college and had my first major existential blow out (“There’s a great education available to me here. Am I taking advantage of it?”), I took a leave of absence for a semester and moved across the country without a job or an address or friends and made a go of it, loving every bit of the uncertainty, the challenge. But lately, I’ve noticed what I can only call a creeping agoraphobia. Is it inertia? Fear? A little of both, rounded out by plain old lack of means? (Moneylessness—it shrinks your soul.) The answer, I believe, is ‘c.’
In any case, last Friday I forced myself into the car and set off, north and west, about 2 hours. Was fidgety at first, guilty, but then my breathing dropped lower in my ribs and I began to see things. The hills were still mostly green, but then, coming around a bend, an entire corridor of fire tones, or the occasional flare of a lone orange-yellow tree, very possibly a crimson vine snaked up its trunk. Then, on the way back, a late lunch in the town where my last boyfriend lived. (The day felt indulgent enough, why not add a little nostalgia tour?) Anyway, it was nice to be back and collect reminders of the fun times we had, and to be able to look over them so placidly. (Don’t know if he feels the same over on his continent. I hope so…) It was also depressing to realize that all that was three years ago, and that the first deep stirrings of this depression date back to that period. Three years. My god…
“And yet, Salt, how long have you been in school?” True. All this week I’m attending talks on a late professor of mine, which has meant going into town everyday, and also seeing old classmates. Both, I know, have been good for me, if a little hard. Walking around the city, this great hive of fashion and self-promotion and ego, I often feel like a tourist from the north woods of Beigeland. That was doubly true yesterday when I had coffee with a friend of mine, a very beautiful, bright, ambitious, hard-working woman who always makes me feel like a fuck-up without a future. The night before I’d had drinks with a couple of my more depressive colleagues—lovely, good, funny folks—and felt less despondent afterward. I know it’s important, though, to maintain connections with the world’s strivers. It’s not helpful to start seeing the depressive state as the norm.
And now, the day awaits…