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Dear Sylvia,

I am very depressed. This shouldn’t surprise you by now as I only ever write to you when I am depressed. As you do not reply to these letters I am not sure as to your exact feelings about them. I can, I guess, assume with some generosity that you do not disapprove of them out of hand. Maybe you even take something from them.

I have been thinking about the nature of this arrangement between this letter and the last one. At first I thought it might be some sort of power dynamic. You, the receiver, are the more dominant over me, the giver. This would make more sense if I knew exactly what I was giving you. I would not presume that you were willfully taking something away from me. But I think the more reasonable arrangement is more egalitarian. Or maybe it’s codependent. We both feel the same feelings, but we deal with them in different — actually in directly opposed — ways. I must be the expresser and you acquiesce to be the listener. Together we form a mutual bond of folk therapy. That is very nice, if it was true; I will not pry you for your thoughts but just leave there for your rumination.

I did hear an interesting theory about being depressed. It goes something like this: the depressed person is always consciously depressed. It is predisposed in them since birth or even fertilization. No one knows where it truly comes from. Being born from a depressed person or people is entirely coincidental. Being depressed means being in a heightened state of being. People who espouse this theory stop just short of saying that it is an evolution, but that is heavily implied. It is assumed that depressed people have a greater sensitivity to the instability of the Real World. They can better navigate it, anticipate any rupture, and endure any fallout better than those who are not depressed. The depressed people are, in some sense, stronger than anyone else. A little birdie told it to me, and by little birdie I mean the person sitting next to me in the waiting room at urgent care. Don’t worry, there was nothing wrong with me, but with someone I know who needed support during a challenging occurrence that compelled urgent care. I guess you could say that that is a power dynamic of its own. I haven’t figured out who is dominant and who is submissive, though.

Anyway, I don’t really buy that. I think there are people who are momentarily despaired who get these kinds of ideas as a sort of motivating factor.

Are you curious as to the circumstances in which this letter is being written? I will tell you regardless. In my last letter I wrote you in a very unremarkable environment: in my small room, on my desk, just after dinner, then again in the morning to finish up. I did so just in time to mail it off. I felt those conditions were restrictive. Being in your room is like being inside a life-sized diorama approximation of your own head. Thoughts you are having bounce against the thoughts you are about to have and float deflated to the floor with the thoughts you had long ago. It is hard to keep track of anything. I never vacuum because I keep seeing my own thoughts on the floor being sucked away as easily as any old dust or bug shell.

I wanted to do something different this time. I wanted to go outside. But I needed ideal conditions for it. It is now winter; and winter, whether one is depressed or not, runs like one long cold day that just happens to span over a few months. The sun is hidden always in the same place. The wind blows in the same opposing direction and at the same unbearable velocity. The show that you see on channel 21 picks up where it leaves off on channels 96, 205, and 899. The coffee has the same tepid tastelessness. I thought I would never get a break, even a slight one. But occasionally the winds show some mercy and the sun comes out for just enough time to get me up and out. I wanted to find a peaceful place with as few people as possible. I remembered that there is a nature walk that runs along a river and a place to sit and watch the water flow. I was anticipating taking that place and putting my thoughts on paper for you.

This was not to be, alas. A great deal of rain and snow causes the river to overflow. It takes weeks to recede and when it does, the path and the sitting area are soggy and claylike. I took once step and my shoe went from blue to earthy brown. So I am actually writing you this letter from a garbage can in front of a QuickChek.

It’s fine, really. It’s fine in the way that most concessions to reality are fine. Ideals always seem to concede to reality in my personal experience. Maybe also in that of others, but I haven’t asked. How do you answer that type of question? I could conceivably ask any of the people who walk out the doors of this QuickChek. Because of the specific nature of my situation I never see them go in, only out, and they remind me again of thoughts freeing themselves from a mind. Thoughts that look a lot like teens cutting class to buy cigarettes. They look at me sometimes as they pass me. I know because I occasionally catch them doing it. Their expressions tell me nothing. They look neither embarrassed nor disgusted.

One customer came out with a soda and was talking on the phone. She seemed older because she was having a conversation people who are no longer teens have. It was not very joyful, weighted by its own concessions to a particular reality. She stopped in front of the store to rummage through her purse, keeping the phone in place with her head and shoulder. I was concerned at this and let her have my writing surface for the duration. She smiled sort of, while continuing her conversation, which I could only hear in fragments. “I just want to wake up one day to see a mature man … Well if he was mature he would be awake before me … I just know these things, clearly you have the same problem.” She got out her Wrigley’s gum and turned to me. “Sorry, thanks.” Then she walked back to her car and her voice faded into foggier inanities.

Back to my trash can, I had one thought and two half-thoughts. First I half-thought of all the times I’d heard conversations like these, usually in the city. I could trail someone for blocks hearing the fractured life story — either their own story or someone else’s. I then half-thought that there might have been times when I was subject to this treatment. Someone to whom I had been connected talking to someone to whom I am entirely unconnected about something I had done or not done that was irritating the former person. Once I walked behind someone on a Friday night who had just gotten either out of work or out of happy hour. I wanted to pass her actually, but she kept zig-zagging absent-mindedly to either extreme of the sidewalk. Also passing her required me to walk at a faster pace than I was willing to go at that moment. She was talking about herself, and her stated intention to eat a dinner of pinot noir and Swedish Fish. Pinot noir and Swedish Fish. To each their own.

My only full thought was of the disappointment the woman outside the QuickChek was going to experience sooner or later about her prospects of maturity.

In my experience, no one ever matures. They clarify. It is a little-thought theory of life, but one I find more compelling than the one earlier mentioned, that at some point we stop becoming a person and just refine that personality over time. I think this happens at age 14 or 15. We never stop being teenagers. We never stop waiting in our rooms for reality to transcend into dream. Our room is turquoise or yellow with posters on the wall of famous boys, bald eagles, or free-running horses. The dream is supposed to call any minute. Our phone is a rotary landline and it is always ringing, but it’s always someone with the wrong number: an old man who cannot hear very well. I don’t know what he represents, he is probably just an old man; it doesn’t matter, it’s annoying all the same, and it’s almost curfew. Some forever-teens are imbued with natural wisdom. Some forever-teens have none at all. It is only by our good or bad fortune that we meet one or the other and make a life with them.

I have to stop now. Some factors: the wind has lost its mercy; so, too, has the QuickChek clerk. The long day is back, and I’m feeling somehow less strong.

Stay real til soonish,

“What? Who cares?” –Me

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