It comes over me unexpectedly sometimes.
Today started off all right. Was in a pretty good mood when I began my shift at Phipp’s. Sure, there was a chorus of crying babies, but then again, when isn’t there? A flat filled with boxes of household cleaners and soaps awaited me. Wasting no time, I dug in, ripping open cardboard containers and moving product to the shelves.
Disinfectants are located right next to the pet supplies. I’m thinking that’s a good idea, since most pets aren’t known for their neatness or sweet aromas. I see the cat toys and I finger the feather birds, soft yet silly. They chirp when you squeeze them, driving your furry friend insane. That reminded me of my kitty, a lovable lump of fluff, zaftig but full of herself, mincing her way into your space and on your lap, all the while, purring. She passed away not long after my marriage fell apart. She was the one bit of comfort I could count on, and her death left an emptiness I yet to fill.
I returned to my work but the damage seemed to be done. My mind filled with wonderful memories of Kitty, but worse, I missed her terribly. Somehow that thought segued into everything else that depressed me. Usually, a chain of events parades in my brain, starting with my parents slowly losing their grip on reality and their health, until both died 18 month of each other. After that, I relive the morning I found out about my husband’s girlfriend, as well as the events that followed immediately after. Of course, no disaster could be complete without relishing the moment when I lost my job – my position was eliminated – and the only place willing to hire me was Phipps. I reinforced my loser status when I convinced myself I was stupid, useless and ugly, and somehow deserved to be employed by a retail establishment rather than a nonprofit, which is where I grew my career.
Depression is horrible. And it’s real. It strikes like lightning, zapping you out of nowhere and draining you dry. I won’t kid you, I’ve had thoughts of suicide. What’s stopping me is I realized I’d practically kill my loved ones if I did.
I feel my body drain dry, hopeless, awful. I turn 57 next month. Is this what the rest of my life’s going to look like?
My fists scrunch my damp eyes closed. No one better see me like this, or they’re going to ask what’s wrong. Never mind I’m always cheerful at work. Why let on what’s inside? What good would it do? I’m not one for pity. I dread having a manager believe I’m not up to task and retreat to the bathroom. It’s a one-at-a-timer, just for employees, so I pull myself together in complete privacy. A splash of water on my eyes and some snotty toilet paper facilitate the process. Then I emerge from the toilet and will myself to smile.
Once, a manager caught me. It was shortly after I began. Went to straighten up the rugs, two aisles of complete and utter destruction. Most of them were on the floor, all mixed together. They looked the way I felt: a mess. I began to cry. A few tears at first, and then, a full-fledged sobfest.
“OMIGOD, ARE YOU OKAY? WHAT’S WRONG?”
I turn around. It’s my boss. He’s standing there, jaw hanging. He’s a kid, 23. But he’s a sweetheart and we connected the moment I started working for him. He never treated me like an employee, but someone who he could count on. I never let him down.
“EVERYTHING!” I reply, or more like, “EHHHH…..VVVRRR…..YYYY….THIIIIIING!!!!!”
Kid Boss comes over and gives me a giant hug. He’s a bit taller than me and built like a football player. He calms me down and takes me over to the cafe for a cup of tea – his treat. Where no one can see us, he listens to me, forgetting the mess of rugs blocking two aisles. I’m grateful. There’s no judgement of character, just a few moments where I can burble my emotions and clear my head. Once I’m back in one piece, Kid Boss helps me straighten up the disaster in Aisles 26 though 28.
Unfortunately, Kid Boss doesn’t work at Phipp’s anymore. He’s moved on, but I’m still here, doing the same damn thing. I’m not jealous. He’s only at the beginning of his life and career, and since he’s working his way through college, he deserved to be rewarded for his efforts. He stays in touch, and I’ve seen him a few times.
But today, I don’t have anyone to console me. I can’t snap out of it. I force myself to direct my thoughts to anything positive. Sure, my furnace recirculating pump died yesterday (true!) but I have a new gas fire that puts out 33,000 BTU, so all isn’t lost. I’m warm. Someone left a full giant-sized bag of M&Ms on the receiving desk, so I help myself. I made a nice dinner last night and I have the leftovers for my lunch – yum!
I overhear a conversation between two obvious newlyweds. They’re designing their home, it seems. They’re intellectualizing it. Their conversation becomes this great discourse of what knobs to purchase (“Oh, those look like twenty-somethings trying to make a nest of their home”) and whether or not they should go to Trader Joe’s after they leave Phipp’s. They reason over color choices as carefully as a brain surgeon would consult his or her team about the best way to extricate a tumor. I hear the husband weigh differences between shapes, textures and styles of throw pillows and are they even necessary, while the wife replies they make welcoming statements but – and this is important – no tassels that could get caught OR bold colors which might not seem relaxing or, banish the thought – déclassé.
My God, I think to myself, are they really decorating their house or are they having some sort of thinly disguised argument? Who gives a shit about knobs and pillows? Of course they shop at Trader Joe’s, or Whole Foods, or Wegmans, or anyplace that doesn’t resemble a run-of-the-mill grocery store. Too pedestrian. They’re so hung up on minutia it’s farcical. Seriously, for all the verbiage that went into their decor decision making, I’m convinced more’s going on between them. What idiots. What assholes.
After listening to enough of this, I start laughing. A little at first, then a lot. So much so, I’m certain they overhear me, although there’s no way they could possibly suspect I’m listening or am able to fully comprehend the weight of their house nesting dilemma. A moment later, they walk past the aisle where I’m now stocking small appliances. A cursory glance appears more like a sneer from that couple, as they sip their premium pretentious lattes. I shake my head as I gaze back. I’m convinced they realize I’m laughing at them. I’m a proletariat to their bourgeoisie. AndI really don’t care.
Of course, they can’t see it now, but I know that couple’s going to get divorced. It’s already over.
And I laugh some more.
My mood has considerably brightened. I’m not stupid. Just stuck. It can happen to anyone. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s the end of the world I knew. Maybe turning 57 is what I need to do. It might just be the time where I throw off the old and finally trip over what I can’t seem to find. Maybe I’ll be surprised and a wonderful gift’ll come my way. Oh, sure, I’ll fall into a depression again, maybe worse. But if I keep my mind open, I might find the strength to steer myself in a new direction.
And I’ll be happy again.