The Mathematics of Melancholy

When I say I am too depressed to go anywhere, she asks me if I've ever been on medication, suggests a few she's heard of, they all have superhero names: Zoloft! Lexipro!

"They sound like they could save the world," I say.

"They could save you," she says.

But I know how I work, have picked myself apart like a watch, have sized-up and spun my little wheels on the tips of my own pointing fingers and pointed them at my head and reassembled, wound, setting myself to days of blankets and wall gazing until I'm moving clockwise again.

She doesn't take my meaning, is unsure of the point, and I try to explain the mechanics, that it does not just start-up suddenly, shudder and expire, but advances, hot and common as a cold except for the dirty fingers that smudge me and the wet mouth full of concrete and ash; when it kisses, my throat closes around the tongue and I think one day I will choke to death.

She has no patience for it and I don't blame her. She is incredulous, "Well, then why don't you . . .?"

And the act of shaking my head loosens some rock behind which sits a quiet afternoon when I was twelve, in the kitchen, spilling and dividing my father's Lithium to add what was there, to tell mother, too thick with whisky to count it herself, whether he'd been taking what was prescribed. And in my hand, the pills were chalky, calm, as innocent as breadcrumbs but nevertheless evidence of something that had been broken. If my calculations were correct, there were too many left, the remainder was too high; so I pushed a few into my pockets, hoping to keep dad in mom's good graces, keep us all out of trouble; confiscating the tablets, I was certain that I was a little off, because I have never been any good at math, never able to comprehend that anything could have only one, fixed solution.

About the author:

Allison Gruber is a Chicago-based writer of plays, fiction and essays. She holds an MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.