This piece is a fictitious story. I intended to write in a way that the reader would experience, or at least understand what my depression feels like. When I am very depressed, I cannot focus on anything, I am incredibly passive, and I daydream about impossible things. Random things become exponentially more important to me because they are a distraction from dealing with my actual problems
“Dying is an art” and I am a failed artist, less than that actually. I dream about being a failed artist, someone chasing their passions in an empty loft, drinking obscene amounts of coffee, smoking weed, and spending the days painting. The only light in my loft would be natural, filtering in through windows that stretch from the floor to the ceiling. Plants would grow freely up the walls, crawling in vines like the tentacles of an octopus. There would be gobs of half-dried oil paints on the wooden floors, a kaleidoscope of colors, a sign to all who entered that I was a creative. I wouldn’t make good art necessarily, just bold art. That’s how I would preserve my “starving artist” aesthetic; I wouldn’t have any customers, forcing the end of each month to be an adventure to find rent money. I would be too proud to take up a second job, and would instead find odd ways to earn cash whenever I needed it. I would learn so much about the world. I would become eccentric and cool and groundbreaking, like those girls in the Indie movies.
I don’t study art, I don’t make art, and I am too awkward to be considered art. I don’t know where my fantasy stems from, but I am going to blame Wes Anderson and Art House films, and my father, the artist. I am a poser in my dad’s old and oversized Eddie Bauer sweatshirt stained with acrylics I never touched. Sometimes I fiddle around with oil pastels, smearing romantic sunsets onto cheap canvasses. Mostly though, I just look at art and take notes. If I go to enough museums, enough student art shows, and enough galleries, then the artistic genes, the talent will find me.
My phone buzzes. Please be Matt. Please be Matt. I flip my phone over, it’s just Olivia.
“Hey! Do you want to get coffee sometime soon? We should really catch up! I haven’t seen you in so long! Miss you, girlie.” I hate Olivia. She’s fake. When we were in high school together she lied about everything. She lied unprovoked about her bank account balance, her happiness, her depression, her family, her sleep schedule, her grades, her friends, her sex life, her after school jobs, and what she wanted to do with her career. I do not want to see her.
I respond, “Hey! Miss you too, girl! We should definitely get coffee sometime soon!”
I am fake too. I hate myself. I contemplate suicide, again.
I kick my textbooks under my bed, my phone too. If I can’t see my phone, I can’t see whether or not Matt is ignoring me, still. Wait, that doesn’t make sense. I need to know if he responds. We fucked twice, he could at least answer me. I try to swallow my Prozac, dry, like they do in the movies, but end up choking and chug the stale water next to my bed. People who can dry swallow pills are not to be messed with. I want to be tough like that.
I wish fucking was a guarantee you’d see someone again.
I lose my virginity to Matt accidentally, absentmindedly. He kisses me hard and with tongue and unzips my pants and pulls my shirt up and over my head, and I can’t think clearly. His fingers are soft and cunning and coax my hips to curl to him. His breath is hot on my neck and in my ears. When he pulls out a condom, I try to say “no” but instead I “please” and then he is inside of me. I gasp and I blink and it’s over. He’s finished. I bleed, but I don’t feel any pain until the next day, and then what I feel is soreness. My roommates notice and say, “You should get fucked more often. It looks good on you.”
I message him again because I notice he’s online. I send a heart emoji.
I text Kalyxa. “Matt still hasn’t responded. Am I needy? Am I desperate? Why won’t he respond? What should I do?”
Kalyxa responds, “Dude. Stop messaging him. Stop looking at your phone. We don’t know if he’s into you. You’re going to drive him away if you keep messaging him.”
I hope he’s into me. So many girls want him. That doesn’t bother me, though because I am exceptional, a real force of nature. We had sex and now, hopefully, he’ll fall in love with me! ‘It’s every girl’s fantasy’, I think sarcastically and roll my eyes at the ridiculousness of it all, my own absurdity.
I want to kill myself. I might have to, if Matt doesn’t respond. No, I don’t believe that. That’s dramatic. I don’t even know if I like him. I just want to beat the other girls who do like him, and I think he’s cool.
Matt is an artist. He goes to Penn, like me. He majors in architecture and minors in fine art. While I wait for him to respond, I stalk his Instagram, try to absorb his talent through his sketches. Matt has seven tattoos. They are each delicate and colorless, soft silhouettes of women, geometric floral shapes. I want them etched into my bones.
My mom refuses to let me get a tattoo until I graduate college and find a job. I think it’ll be fine because I will find a job in a creative field and all of my friends and coworkers will be tattooed. Tattoos are an integral part of my fantasy that I forgot to mention.
I pick up a Sharpie from my desk and doodle phrases on my arm. I sketch, “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt,” “So it goes,” and “They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.” These are my favorite phrases from literature. I hear my dad walk down the hallway.
“Em, what are you doing in there?” He asks through the crack between my door and the wall. He knocks. “Can I come in?”
“Sure,” I say.
“What are you up to? Why are you drawing on your arm? Come on, now. You’re more mature than that. Act like it. What if it doesn’t wash off? We have plans tomorrow. You can’t let people see that.”
I stop and look up at him. “I want a tattoo. I’m practicing to see which quotes look good.”
“You can get a tattoo when you get a job, and you shouldn’t get something stupid tattooed. People won’t understand your literary references. They’ll think it’s dumb. You’ll regret it.”
I roll my eyes. He leaves and shuts the door behind him.
My phone buzzes again. My heart leaps. It’s not Matt. It’s The New Yorker. For a second, I pretend they’re contacting me, they’ve heard of my talent and are recruiting me to write for them; but they’ve just published a new article and my subscription needs a renewal.
I should write more, but I’m not very talented. If I never write, I’ll never have to face how untalented I am. I study English. It would be a travesty for my parents to know how thoroughly I have wasted their money, studying something I am not good at, something I am no longer interested in. I cannot, will not, face the fact that I have no job prospects or publications.
I used to be talented. That’s why I started studying English. Or maybe I wasn’t talented, but people thought I was. They believed in me. I wrote all the time. Every year for Christmas my parents bought me a new notebook and a set of pens. I was “unique,” not a lot of third graders spent their time writing short stories. I misunderstood “unique” to mean “gifted.” I grew up, went to high school, went to college, and realized anyone can write. I wasn’t special anymore. This was, and is, the age of mass produced Rupi Kaur inspired poems. I stopped writing for a bit, until I found a new notebook. It was black, plain, unlined. It was sexy. It inspired me. I realized that I wanted to make art with my words, not just craft essays or cheap prose masquerading as poetry. The only problem is I don’t have time to make art. And the lighting in my dorm room is wrong for it.
In my future home, I’ll have my own studio for writing and smearing oil pastels. There will be easels, mirrors, art kits, some mannequins with scraps of fabric, collages made from old September issues of Vogue, and a drafting table for my work. I’ll be able to work creatively if the aesthetics are correct. I’ll be the first poet ever to write a description of a broken heart that isn’t cliché because I know what pain is. Pain is found in the moments between fantasies when you’re forced to think about your lack of talent.
Or I could just kill myself, that’d be easier. I wouldn’t have to figure out how to furnish the studio if I were dead, and I wouldn’t feel pain.
I wander into my dad’s workspace, stepping over the case of oil paints on the floor. If I stay here long enough, I’ll find inspiration to make something. It’s osmosis. I’ll absorb whatever creativity he left in the air. I sit on the floor for ten minutes, flip through a book of Van Gogh’s early works. No ideas come. I leave disappointed.
‘My pillow is calling and I must go,’ I think as I walk back into my room and over to my bed. I chuckle to myself. I’m so clever. I could be a comedian. No, that takes too much effort. How do people learn how to be funny? Where does talent come from? What’s the point of living if you lack it?
Trick question, there is no point to life without talent.
I need a new bathtub where I can kill myself. Bathtubs are so poetic. It would be a gentle death, an easy, pretty death, the death deserving of an artist. Salvador Dali used to lay in his bathtub curled into the fetal position. It made him feel like he was safe inside of his mother’s womb again, shielded from the world.
I need a new bathroom too.
My current bathroom has bubblegum pink walls and a mauve and white tiled floor. Wooden, lime green letters hang on the wall. The letters spell the word “Girls.” There’s an old, hot pink bathmat flopped on the floor. It used to be fuzzy, but now it is flat. The bathtub is longer than it is deep with yellow rings of grime engraved on each side. The faucet is broken. The shower head is cracked, and the shower curtains, which used to be translucent, are now the color of a milky discharge and covered with cartoon flowers. There is a large, porcelain toilet bowl next to the shower. The lid is gone so it stares at you, mouth agape, begging to swallow your feces.
I climb off of my bed and walk into my bathroom to pee. My mom hears me moving around.
“Did you finish your application?” she shouts from downstairs.
“No, not yet. I’m sure it’s not an issue. They say that everyone gets accepted. They just want my money. It’ll work itself out.”
“That’s what you said about the other program and you were rejected,” she shouts back and bangs around in the kitchen. She yells, “Hey, how are your grades?”
“Fine,” I say.
My grades are not fine. One more bad grade and I’ll be placed on academic probation. But it doesn’t matter. I never liked school, still ended up at Penn. I can always get an MFA, that’s what I hear anyway. I Googled it the other day. Graduate programs for creative writing don’t care about grades. I’m sure I could get into a program. I could whip up a portfolio if they needed one. I probably can still write, and I just lack the motivation for it right now.
My mom asks me if I can make dinner for everyone tonight. I hate being home. I wish I had enough money to travel.
I lie back down on my bed, summon pictures of Europe to my laptop screen, trace them lackadaisically with my fingers and my eyes until the photos begin to blur around the edges.
The plane arrives fifteen minutes late. I have been sitting in the terminal since 6:30 this morning. It is 9:00 when I board. We are jetting off to Paris where I will eat croissants and macaroons and shop, despite the fact that I do not speak a word of French. The man next to me pops his gum and examines my tee shirt. He asks about the band printed on it. I hate small talk.
“Yeah, Cheap Trick, I like them a lot. My dad took me to go see them a few years ago. It was my first concert.”
“Oh that’s cool what’s your favorite song? I used to listen to them a while ago,” the man responds. “It’s so rare to find kids into “good music” these days. It seems like all anyone listens to is women mooing into auto-tuning devices about lost love and not enough sex. Back in my day, we really jammed. I remember the first time I heard rock and roll music. It changed my whole outlook on life. Kids these days don’t have original ideas, that’s what the problem is. No one has original ideas. You’re all just plugged into your devices all the time.”
I look at him and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t sleep well last night” Then I plug in my earbuds and mash my face against the window. My legs fall asleep. The plane hasn’t taken off yet.
Even my fantasies annoy me. I open my eyes and sit up. My foot bangs hard against the metal edge of my bed.
Matt still hasn’t responded. He’s the worst. I wonder if he’s into me. I think he might be, but you can never tell with boys. The last time he came over I asked if he was just using me for sex. He said no. That’s a good sign. It’s weird though, I’m so attached to this boy, but I don’t feel anything when we have sex. He pushes in and out of me mechanically, rolls over when he’s finished, and picks up his phone to text other girls. I think I should care about that, but I don’t. I feel empty. I lie to myself, and to him, about how good the sex is, how much I care, how I want him to be my boyfriend. I think maybe I need to be doing something emotionally reckless to feel alive. I want sex to be that emotionally reckless activity. Or maybe I just want attention.
I really could kill myself, if I wanted to. I would die, and then I’d be an artist. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, so why not? There’d be no pressure to do anything, to make anything, or become anything. I would just cease existing-easy, breezy, beautiful, like Covergirl Cosmetics. Maybe I should start wearing more makeup, that would make people notice me.
Matt still hasn’t responded. Maybe if I changed my hair, I would be edgy enough to date him. Dating would bring emotions, right? I could cut my hair short and add pink highlights to my blonde ones. I could buy books about architecture, listen to punk music, then we’d have more to talk about. He’s smart, smarter than I am.
I run my toe along the protruding edge of my textbook. I should study, but my grades don’t matter because I am going to receive my MFA in creative writing. I wonder if I’ll find a job. It doesn’t matter because I am going to kill myself.
The ideal bathroom where in which I will kill myself is all white. The walls are eggshell. Sunlight floods in through the large bay window. A leafy ponytail palm named Penny sits on the windowsill. The pearl colored tiles on the floor are octagonal, and the ones on the wall are rectangular. The bathtub stands in the middle of the room on four golden claw feet which sparkle in the light reflected by the mirror hanging on the wall across from it.
The faucet is curved like the necks of porcelain women who I visit in the art museums. Its knobs are small and unobtrusive, they turn easily and are made of antique silver. You could take a picture of the faucet and hang it in a museum of contemporary art.
I want a clean look, a minimalist look, but I need to have my things. I try to keep only the necessary objects on hand, the ones that most compliment the minimalist feeling I am trying to obtain. I balance razor blades, a bottle of lavender oil, my pretty glass pipe overflowing with weed, and a mirror on the wide edge of the tub.
There is no bathmat. Bathmats are for messy people. There is no toilet either. In a perfect world, people don’t shit, but they probably don’t kill themselves either.
I’ve hired a photographer to document my suicide. I am finally a work of art, a model. I don my bathrobe, drape it over my shoulders. It is deep gray and fuzzy. It’s a dream, a storm cloud without the chaos. When I stand, it hits the middle of my calves.
I stand in front of the tub and drop my robe. The photographer takes her first shot. I extend my toe to prick the surface of the water. It’s warm, slightly warmer than room temperature. My leg bends like a ballerina’s. The camera clicks.
I nestle into the belly of the tub and stretch so my stomach doesn’t bunch into rolls, and when I give the photographer her cue, she snaps another shot. I select a razor blade and pretend to examine it, although I have already memorized the shape, the texture, the acidic scent of metal. I dig the razor into my wrist and gasp deliciously when it hits the first blue vein. I scoop out one vein and then the others. They sit in a heap of bloodied tissue on the floor. The contrast between my soiled flesh and the white tiles is marvelous, absolutely spectacular. But I can’t look for long. I am bleeding out. I am running short on time. I haphazardly arrange the veins into shapes which I hope are poetic, and the photographer continues taking pictures. If there are any flaws in the color or composition, she’ll fix them in post on Instagram. She captures the feigned anguish on my face, the pretend pain, as I curl into the fetal position just like Dali used to, and as the water runs red, I wait to die.
I close the Notes app on my phone. My plan is perfect, but it’ll have to wait for the bathroom to be redone. Besides, I have no reason to kill myself; I just have no reason to live.
I walk into my bathroom, rub my feet on the flattened bathmat, pull my tee shirt over my head, and take off my sweatpants. I plug my phone into the wall socket so that it can charge while I take a bath and select a playlist. I step into the shower, twist the ugly knobs of the faucet, and splash the water over my legs as the tub fills. My phone buzzes. Is it Matt? I reach for it, pull my iPhone into the shower with me, see how far I can stretch its cord while it’s plugged in. I check it while I sit in the water. There’s a spark, a flash of light, the smell of burning flesh.