Lecture Hall

Attending guest speaker event at the college.
Open to public.
Evening, already dark outside.

Semicircle lecture hall filled
With rosy undergrads,
Pensive graduate students,
Professors in tweed sports coats,
Smattering of retired professionals from town,
And me.

My chair squeaks softly.
Glance at an older student further down my row.
Knitted charcoal sweater, black skinny chinos, stark white Vans hightops.
Hair pale caramel, perfectly tousled.
Tapered sideburns point to smooth angular jaw.
Slate grey eyes meet mine.
Flicker of gentle smile.
I stare down at my worn Nikes.

Lecture ends.
Throw on heavy coat,
Flip up collar,
Stride into frigid night,
Alone.

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Walk through leaves

Walking through town today.
Fallen leaves, assorted browns and faded oranges,
Lie scattered along path.
Air is crisp.
Football game at the college.
Some sort of sporting event at the high school.
Dull roar of crowds from both fields.

Streets crowded
With families and young people:
Elementary school girls playing tag on the church lawn;
Adolescent boys, effortlessly slender, strolling languidly in their hormonal pack;
Entitled fraternity bros
In designer skinny jeans
Smoking vapes and laughing
With perfect dentition.

I go unnoticed.
Heaviness descends,
Slows my gait to a shuffle as I walk through leaves.
How badly I long
For a friend,
A lover,
A smile.

Major Depressive Disorder

Everyone feels sad at times.  It’s not a disease.
Shit happens.
Get over it.
Have a beer.
Pray.
Be a man.
Grow a pair.
You don’t need Prozac,
You need a backbone.
Get off your duff
And get to work.

A healthy and intelligent son
In a supportive, middle-class, two-parent, two-sibling, Protestant household
In rural Oklahoma,
I knew
Depression is a made-up condition
For liberal West Coast hippies
Who’ve strayed from God’s path
And who have never earned an honest day’s living.

Then I went away to college,
To grad school,
To med school,
And tried to kill myself
By jumping
In front of a city bus.

It’s a serotonin imbalance in the brain.
I can trace the neural pathways for you;
I got an A in neuroscience.
But black textbook arrows through the amygdala don’t tell it:
The stasis that permeates one’s being,
Until your muscles feel sodden
And your thoughts struggle against a palpable, impenetrable grey.

Rise from bed every morning, O Sisyphus.
Fatigue.
Putrefaction.
Resignation.
Despair.
The entropic dissolution of vitality.

And
Even with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors,
You turn to other remedies:
Coffee, cocaine, mutilation, masturbation,
Writing, reading, running, swimming,
Highway driving at 3 AM, 110 mph, windows down, radio up, headlights off.

Anything
To dispel,
For a fleeting instant,
The lassitude, stillness, and weight
Of this disease
That we all know
Is merely an excuse
For laziness.