N is for Neville Who Died of Ennui

Mother of God, how I hate the winter!

I have blogged about this so many times that it is pointless to do so again, but it’s all I’ve got.

This time of year creeps up on me like a quiet plague. It infiltrates every part of my being: my sight, my hearing, my perception, the way I feel inside my body and brain. I never notice it’s coming until it’s in my bones and I’m crunching around the grey streets, feeling grey and alternating emotionally between a lazy rage and a sad apathy.

I feel for chronically depressed people in February. In June, I forget about them. It’s all tight dresses and two hour brunches and “Girl, your hair looks FABULOUS!”. But for now, the perpetually sad have my attention and empathy. I know their pain. I was a depressed teenager, not realizing that the 6 months of winter in Northern Michigan were partly to blame for a perpetually bummed out mood which manifested in embarrassing diaries full of flowery and intense longing for I knew not what, and a lifelong attachment to black clothing.

Sigh…the more things change, the more they stay the same, except that with age and experience comes the ability to recognize the symptoms of seasonal ennui. 

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been drinking too much at work when it gets very late into the night. It cheers me up, if only momentarily. And I have to cool it. I haven’t gotten so drunk that people notice, but I am mature enough to desire sobriety when gainfully employed. But instead of reminding myself that I am vulnerable right now and simply have to choose to take a break for the time being, I take it to the emotional and mental extreme. I text apologies to people who have no idea what I’m talking about. I wonder if I’m an alcoholic. I wallow in self-loathing, vague and undefinable guilt and shame lapping at my ankles. I wonder if I should go back to therapy. I wonder if my boyfriend has stopped loving me. Yaaaaayyy…it’s February!

Today I had intended to go to a yoga class, but then it seemed well out of the range of possibility energy-wise. I did get out to run some errands, and that was just as expected. I stood in an empty aisle reading a label in the drug store, and Patty NYU comes and stands directly behind me as close as possible, wanting to look at the same item. The internal monologue starts up immediately. Why can’t she get her other stuff first? Does she have to hover around me like an ill wind? I turn around and give her the look. She ignores me. She just wants what she wants, and I am in her way. I want to kill her. Now we are mortal enemies. There can be only one! In the cash register line I assess her hair. It looks dull and lifeless. Her hair is stupid. I hate her jacket. How dare she stand so close to me in an empty store. She must die. She doesn’t have a Duane Reade club card. She probably doesn’t need one because Daddy pays the credit card bill. I create a whole backstory to justify my rage. Then I realize I actually like her hair, and remember, oh yeah. It’s FEBRUARY.

In the grocery store I get stuck behind an old lady traffic jam. The grocery stores in Manhattan are excruciating: a too-small labyrinth of boxes and bodies. Human movement is impossible without constant struggle, and the elderly love to gum the already gummy works with the largest carts possible. They don’t care, they’re retired, it’s time to hang. So we all stop and wait. I am too depressed to try to get around them, so I just stare at the onions with resentment. I am hot, so hot. Because in February you dress for the outdoors and then as soon as you get inside to shop you boil in your coat and scarf and hat. 

Eventually the tiny, stooped woman at the front of the fray takes a shuffle step. We’re moving now! I sigh audibly and yank at my itchy scarf. They all must die.

At the register line, I choose self-service so I can bag in my eco-friendly cloth bag at my leisure. The machine immediately freaks out at the presence of a non-plastic bag and shouts repeatedly at me: “PLEASE REMOVE THE UNSCANNED ITEM FROM THE BAG.” The girl manning the self-service is wearing the most amazing wig I have ever seen, it sits high on her head with black and white streaks pouring out of the back like a fountain. This cheers me some when she clears my machine, until PLEASE REMOVE THE UNSCANNED ITEM FROM THE BAG starts up again. Fuck you, stupid machine. I will kill you too. The only good thing on this entire planet right now is that goddamn wig.

One of the little old ladies freaks out. She starts shouting at her cashier: “I ONLY ASKED YOU WHERE TO PUT THE BASKET!! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? YOU ROLL YOUR EYES AT ME? YOU’RE JUST A CASHIER YOU KNOW! IT ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE. YOU’RE NOT A DOCTOR.”

She is maaaaad. M.A.D. She continues to shout and the cashier walks away to avoid an argument. I finish up my annoying self-service and now I have to get around the shouting lady to exit the store. She moves forward to let me out, and I look down at her. She has lipstick on and I see she’s put some effort into her appearance. The scarf on her head is silk. She’s cute. She looks up at me and says, “I ONLY ASKED HER WHERE TO PUT THE BASKET AND SHE ROLLS HER EYES. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? SO RUDE. SO UNBELIEVABLY RUDE. THIS STORE IS GOING DOWN, IT IS TERRIBLE HERE!”

I have been there. I have. Something sets you off and you can’t stop and everyone else stares at you like you have three heads, which then makes you madder and more vocal about defending your position until you’re causing a major scene in public, which then ends, in my case, in tears at home and the occasional scathing Yelp review. So whenever it’s not me causing the scene, I feel a sense of relief.  

See, I am not crazy.

I put my hand on her arm and said, “Don’t let it ruin your day; she just doesn’t like her job.” 

Her tension lessened visibly and she reciprocated the arm touch. She replied, ‘SHE DOES HATE HER JOB! SHE’S MISERABLE!” The tone of the shout was calmer and it made me happy to be able to help her feel a little better. I felt badly for the cashier. It’s a tedious job and I imagine sometimes you have to roll your eyes at the old ladies or go insane, and no one wants to be screamed at for such a minor offense. But I liked that I was able to assuage the upset a small bit for this cute little woman, who had put on lipstick to go to the grocery store and merely wanted to be treated nicely when she put away her basket. It was a small moment of human connection that eased my own suffering. 

So yeah. Wintertime sucks. But I’m hanging in there. Hope you are too.

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