At the beginning of this year I was laden with a deep, tumultuous depression. I was hit with it the way that cartoon characters are hit with Acme anvils or pianos from the fourth window of apartment blocks. I felt as though the rest of the World could see it all approaching, happening and impacting, and all I could do was stand there until I became prostrate and obliterated. A blip on the pavement about as useful as used gum.
This kind of thing used to embarrass me. Whenever I felt expunged by a depression, I’d just shake it off like an athlete still playing through a broken limb. Whenever I tried to bring it up to anyone I always felt like an attention seeking teenager who had merely woken up one day feeling sad; the aftermath of too many Elliott Smith records, an unreciprocated crush and the desire to piss off parents everywhere, and not a real mental dysfunction.
But this year, I embraced it. This wasn’t some heroic, selfless feat. Nor was it a dramatic outpouring of my burst sensibilities or profound. I simply had nothing better to do with my time than to embrace something. Sometimes it was my cat. Sometimes it was my boyfriend. Sometimes it was my depression. Most of the time it was my bed.
Some part of this was probably due to my terminal unemployment and consequent complete poverty. Near everyone I pretty much knew and loved had abandoned the city, smartly, to go get actual jobs elsewhere. I stayed in Liverpool.
More accurately, I stayed in bed.
Some days, if not most, I’d sleep for upwards of 14 hours. I stopped eating actual meals. I gave up on basic hygiene. I barely left the house. There’s little point in leaving the house when you don’t even have the money to scrape together for a coffee or a bag of crisps to give purpose to your trip.
I did try this once or twice. I walked aimlessly around and about like a record needle that jumps only between the songs of an LP to produce a crackly, unsatisfying silence. I’d bump into people I knew. People that I used to know, at least, back when I used to leave the house. I was probably wearing some manner of threadbare, mismatched clothing; the kind staggered with holes and enhanced for ultimate crazy with lived in, never-washed stains and old stick on name tags from unsuccessful job interviews.
Hi! My Name Is…Willdoany Jobformoney
This is the kind of look that deters most sane people from making small talk with you. When you’re out like that, walking aimlessly, the only question people ever seem to ask - quite enthusiastically, I might add, as though they know something that you don’t - is ‘where are you heading?’. And every time I would get asked this I’d crumble under the implied existentialism poised within.
I didn’t even have an answer. All I could do was smile, limply, and say ‘nowhere’. And so I stopped leaving the house. I did laps of the living room instead. The cat would watch me from the couch out of just the one sleepy eye as if he were the warden in charge of my suicide watch.
The cat will save me, I thought. Imagine the headlines.
Then recently, I got a job. The timing was lucky, here. I’d just re-learnt how to brush my teeth more than once a day, and shower in the mornings, and how to cook a meal that wasn’t just toast smeared with the leftover remnants of grease from the chip pan.
If I had a beard, I would have probably shaved it off at this point.
This job involves a daily commute on two different trains. The idea of this terrified me. I hate confined spaces. And I loathe people. I imagined myself sitting next to every psycho and pervert going. All the lonelies and drunks and conspiracy theorists. It didn’t matter that it was 8am. These people didn’t sleep.
I waited for something to happen on that train for weeks. I’d clamber on and hide behind my book, shifting my gaze suspiciously between crammed on commuters and men who managed to take up two entire seats just so that their balls could rest comfortable in the sprawl (or so I imagine).
But there was nothing. People didn’t talk. They didn’t even look at each other. It didn’t matter how packed the train got, people found a way to avoid each other: they avoided physical contact, they avoided eye contact, they snarled in disapproval at the lone couple of women who rode the train together each morning and made loud, banal conversation in the middle of the carriage.
I thought, fuck me! This is it! The World’s finally caught up! An entire commute of misanthropy. I love it on that goddamn train.
Just yesterday I was sat opposite a woman eating a bag of crisps for breakfast. The train was jammed. There was barely any seats. Next to her was an average sized man reading the paper. He had his legs spread open so wide that he took up the entirety of the exit space. One leg wedged underneath my seat and another angled right out into the aisle.
She ate her crisps and stared anxiously at his foot. Her stop was coming up. You could tell because she started to pull on her bag strap - the international implication that you should move the hell out of the way and let a sister leave the train - and had finally lifted her gaze up from off the floor.
The man did not move. He turned a page of his newspaper and resumed his home comforts. The woman stood up. She was still eating her crisps. She stared forlornly at the man. And then the sadness turned to anger. And then she poured the remnants of the bag of crisps, and the bag, onto his leg. The wrapper fell onto his foot and remained there for the rest of the journey.
She climbed over him and walked off.
Nobody said anything. The man, especially, covered in crisp crumbs and someone else’s empty crisp packet, said nothing. He didn’t even move.
And then it occured to me. That depression, all those months seeing nobody and eating crisps for dinner and confining myself to the cramped, comfortable carriage of a tightly tucked in bed whilst I suffered the residue of bad music from the neighbours flat beneath me. It was all just a part of the training.