Windows

By JULIANA HATFIELD  |  September 17, 2008

It’s so difficult to describe a bad depression. Even if one could capture it in all its blank, dead horror, she would know that there was not really any point in telling anyone else. Talking about how one’s blood has run cold, or dry, or black, doesn’t bring any relief. It’s as tedious for the sufferer as for the listener. Telling someone is only burdening him with a big problem that doesn’t appear to have any solution: it hurts to be awake. The morbidly depressed person’s only hope is for unconsciousness; for the gift of sleep to free her for the requisite seven or eight hours each night. Even then, disrupted or stunted sleep is often part of the problem.

So I set out on tour promoting Only Everything, lugging my sluggish body from campus to campus, from stage to stage, from hotel to hotel, and so on, while consumed every waking second with the utter, definitive hopelessness and worthlessness of everything; of the future, of today, of the past. The ubiquitous, homely Wal-Marts and McDonalds and Taco Bells and Best Buys and Staples sprouting up out of every roadside like poisonous, monster weeds seemed, in my funk, justifiable enough reason for anyone to shoot herself in the head.

The suicide note might read: “I did it because of all the Wal-Marts.”

Tragic broccoli and bear
At the northeastern colleges I was visiting, I saw the inevitable death in every student’s clean-scrubbed, innocent, smiling face. At NYU, the refreshments the student concert committee had set up for me and my band and crew — a bag of tortilla chips; a jar of salsa; a Saran-wrapped plastic supermarket deli platter of dried-out, precut broccoli florets, baby carrots, celery, et cetera, arranged in sections in cubbies around a centrally located foil-covered container of “dip”; a bunch of Budweiser bottles that had been shoved upright into the ice in a plastic tub to chill them — was the most tragic thing I had ever seen.

The way some of the curtains in some of the campus classrooms hung, powerlessly, like on the gallows, resigned to their eternal hanging fates, broke my heart. And the fluorescent lighting throughout many of the public rooms seemed to bring into harsh, stark relief all the sadness and ugliness and barbarism and pain that ever was, in the millions of years of the history of civilization.

I would hold myself together during soundcheck, and then afterward I would saunter off to some quiet, relatively hidden space — behind one of the tall, thick, floor-skimming industrial curtains shading the big long glass windows behind the stage in the auditorium at Brandeis, for example, or lying down under the table in the small classroom being used as a dressing room at Amherst — and just sob. Chest-heaving, face-drenching, hour-long uncontrollable epic bawlfests. I would wait until my guys were off exploring the campus or going to find dinner so I could do my crying in private in the dressing room. Or if I happened to be in the auditorium, I would make sure, before I cried, that no ticket holders had been let in yet and couldn’t catch me in the act, with splotchy cheeks and snot dripping off my chin.

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