I dream I’m alone in a single cell prison. I have in my right hand an electric gun that I use to kill the alien-like spiders that scurry into my cell. I wake up from the dream at about 8am, decide that I want to go back to my adventure and fall back asleep.
When I wake up at 930am I notice a pattern on the wall caused by the light passing through my blinds. It immediately brings to mind the bars in a prison cell. I think about how when I’m depressed I feel like a prisoner: of my thoughts; of my feelings; of my apartment; of my career.
I realize I’m going to have to will myself to get out today and decide to visit a park I came across during a run last week. I was struck by the fact that this tiny patch of grass which I had never noticed before achieved park status. I smiled at the thought that it accomplished this through audacity, will and ingenuity. Indeed, were there not a sign and a trash bin I would have just assumed that it was a private lawn shared by the condominiums surrounding it.
I get to the park, lay out my towel and lie belly down. The warmth of the sun feels good on my back but quickly feels burdensome. I move a few feet to the right and find relief in the shade only to feel cold within minutes. I enjoy how quickly and sensitively my body responds to the sun as it makes me feel like we’re having an active and open exchange–like my body and the sun are negotiating something. An agreement is reached: I keep my upper half in the shade and lower half in the sun. It works out for all parties involved.
I look at the blades of grass. Even with the recent rains they remain humble: unkempt and ever so slightly yellowish. I am the only person here just as I was when I ran through the other day.
When I was a child I was always on the lookout for nooks or hiding spots. There were not many in my crowded and modestly sized home, but I did my best. There was (is) a tree right off the driveway that I would climb. It felt like a secret hiding spot even though, in reality, it was in plain sight. As I grew older and began to drive I continued to look for nooks that I could live in were I to become homeless. As bleak as it sounds I found this very comforting. So maybe I’m drawn to this sad little park because it feels like a forgotten nook where I can be invisible in plain sight.
There are city workers cutting branches about 75 yards away. I enjoy listening to them chat and keep one another company as they work. They seem to genuinely enjoy one another. “¡Cuidado!” (careful!) shouts one to another in a gruff but caring way that reminds of my grandfather. As uncomfortable as I am speaking in my mother-tongue, I feel an immense sense of comfort listening to it. It’s a soft, warm, sensual and loving language. It’s round and curvy and lacking in sharp edges.
My lower back aches slightly and my triceps burn from propping my torso up. I decide that it would be best to leave so I stand up and shake the grass out of the towel and drive to my dad’s house. I decide on the way there that if I manage to stay in the yard, I won’t be as impacted by the sad coldness of the house. It ends up being a good idea. I do my laundry and chat with my father about sports and day-to-day life.
I have a strategic way of being open with my father, of finding that sweet spot where I hold onto myself while also being truthful. For example, I told him I felt anxious and unsettled about my potential move. When he asked why I stated casually that my mental illness causes me to experience small things as gigantic hurdles and then I immediately balanced this out by mentioning that moves are a common source of anxiety for people. I was not seeking reassurance or advice and I did not go any deeper than this. I’m not sure what my father thinks when I share personal things about myself in passing and that’s okay. I don’t share these things for him. I do it because it allows me to hold onto who I am (a deeply emotional person) within the context of a family system that insists feelings don’t exist. It’s a way of casually insisting on the truth without confrontation.
I sometimes think our culture has misguidedly reduced intimacy to something that can only be achieved through open verbal exchanges or sex. But I find that some of the most intimate moments in life occur in silence–sitting side-by-side with someone and sharing an unspoken truth. I’d like to think that my father and I share an unspoken truth: life can be full of pain and it’s a challenging thing to navigate. I don’t think that I need to go into detail about those truths I casually mention. Nor does he need to tell me about what haunts him. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t be open to listening; it’s only to say that even if he never “opens up” I can still enjoy our connection in subtle fleeting moments.
After leaving my dad’s house I decide to pick up my thyroid medication at the pharmacy. As I said earlier, sometimes small things make me anxious and, for some reason, my chest tightens and my heart races on my drive there. The anxiety fades as I walk in–the familiarity of the place soothes me. I decide to be naughty and pick up a diet Coke on my way to pharmacy counter. While waiting in line I mysteriously tear up. I’m not consciously aware of any sad thoughts and yet here I stand teary eyed. I make a concerted effort to hold the tears back when I notice that I’m next in line. As I approach the counter the young woman asks me if I’m okay. I’m taken aback. I get away with being teary eyed in the world quite a lot and I’m quite adept at hiding it. But in this case, I get caught. I say to her, “I’m okay. Just experienced a recent loss.” Why do I say this? I’m caught off-guard and I quickly decide to provide a response that can be easily understood. I decide, rightly or wrongly, that it’s almost cruel to fuck with her empathetic and attuned perception. So I go with the concept of loss. And it’s not entirely a lie. I mean, my traumas are about loss and neglect. She smiles warmly and says, “I’m sorry” and we conduct our business. I realize I feel touched that she noticed me so after the transaction I say, “Thank you for noticing” and walk away.
As I walk down the aisles on my way out I notice how so many of the things that are sold in the world speak to our emptiness and insecurities. I clock some snake oil that claims to boost your testosterone and a meal replacement that promises to help you lose weight naturally. This makes me sad. I’m not sure why I notice these products at this specific moment; why I give it any thought. But for some reason I do. I feel a charge of compassion for myself and others and imagine that I can somehow radiate it out through sheer will. I leave the store and drive home.
So here I am putting the finishing touches on what might be the most boring and mundane thing I have ever shared: “The Adventures-of-a-Lonely-Depressed-White-Passing-Middle-Aged-Mexican-Man-On-A-Day-Off-From-Work”. I wonder if it’s okay that I didn’t exercise today. I wonder if it’s okay for me to play some video games.