The whole time I was falling, with the circle of the sky closing, closing like the mouth of the gray whale swallowing me, my temperature dove with me.
At first it was snuggling toward the tap, as if the steaming fall were a life-giving campfire. I huddled toward the warmth as though the cooling waters being me were prods and spears.
Then it was swaddling: blankets, sweaters, hoodies, towels. A cocoon, perhaps, certainly a cave. Perhaps a womb.
Eventually, though, nothing but my oven-hot husband could disband the chill: I needed to crawl into his skin, the urge to merge a ravenous hunger, really, for obliteration.
And I see it, the whole time. The narrator inside tallies the unwashed dishes, the load of laundry moldering in the washer, the waft of decay from the trash.
Others fill in where I fail, happy to Spackle the gaps, happy to lend a hand. But the seething stew of self-recrimination hates. Enablers! It shrieks. Can’t you see me falling?
Smoke signals. A meme in its truest sense, passed on from the ashes of my mother’s purse, the portable hoard-that-is-Mom, a treasure trove of practicality and intimacy: a notecard “Smoke signals” and a list of mundane refusals.
*declining social invitations.
*lack of personal hygiene
*unable to enjoy activities I usually enjoy, like ____________
And here she has written “reading, going to movies, going to the mall.”
Oh, dear Depression, I know that card.
A plastic baggie on my refrigerator sports a collection of pills: niacin, b-12, vitamins C and the horse pill of Calcium+D.
“No laundry or dishes for two days TAKE ME.”
Smoke signals. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire? I hope. Not yet. Where there’s smoke, there am I, beside the dying coals.
But the meme lives in me now, waiting to bear fruit. I do the things I don’t want to, can’t. I take the pills. I reach out. I ask for help. My core has almost frozen solid so I admit, admit, admit, like I’m chafing my hands in the middle of winter, knowing it will do no lasting good but maybe it will help for now. I hug myself tight!
Blankets, arms, words, whatever will keep the chill at bay. I’m fevered with need, tossing, gnashing, restless in exhaustion and illness. My brain is on fire and I freeze to death from it.
In the night, the fever breaks. Kick at strangling covers. Push the oven-husband aside. Use his mass to dive into the cool waters of empty mattress. MY side. MY pillow. MY blanket.
Frustration, desperation writhe inside. He leaves for work and I can’t get up. I can’t reset the alarm. I can’t I can’t I
A chick cracks the shell.
They don’t tell you it’s frustration, desperation, aggravation that free you.
It’s the heat of the fire inside that melts the ice.
I am angry, and that anger kindles other emotions: anxiety.
Quick, to the home apothecary!
The next batch of pills down the throat. A bit of CBD to quiet the toddler inside stamping and screaming “I Don’t Wanna!”
I thought she was dead and I’m glad to see her but will she just shut the Hell up?
A jacket, a sweater–no, that’s too warm.
It’s too damn warm.
I am too damn warm.
I rise, exothermic, and the sky is as large as life. Today I live, a phoenix from my and my mother’s ashes.
And today is fire enough for me.