The Forbidden Zone

Live Tonight: Wilco! A Band for Better Dispositions

ChrisChris was depressed. So much for the subtle detail of exposition, but Chris was so massively colossally and incapacitatedly
depressed that it transcended the scope of subtlety. He was so paralyzed by the informational strangulations of the Century of Wires (“Information Age” sounds too understated / academic / positive) that not even daily ear prayers to the Across the Universe soundtrack and Netflix laptop marathons of New Girl made him very viscerally happy. They made him smile in a 21st century what-better-have-I-to-do-than-watch-TV-programming, the-world-is-ending-so-why-not-listen-to-Wilco, the-car-keys-are-missing-so-maybe-I’ll-look-for-them-later, I-am-very-small kind of way. But they didn’t make him smile in the I-am-an-important-and-capitalistic-individual-with-an-effect-on-anything-that-happens-in-the-universe type of way. That’s because he was too overwhelmed by such a world of mounting connections and lost circuitry to do anything else but curl up to Zooey Deschanel’s voice and New York apartment with a cup of Turkish mint tea and a croissant poured over with Hershey’s syrup. Because in late night Skype calls to out-of-town friends he could receive the question What Did You Do Today and respond honestly with I Just Watched Fake People Live Fake Lives on a Screen and Tell Jokes For Me and not a whole lot else. And even though Chris was intelligent enough to catalogue this ridiculously passive behavior of disconnectivity with the world, it didn’t do anything to free him from its strictures. The screen on his Dell XPS 12 was alluring and luminous and noticeably sirenlike in its sexy vacuity.

Chris began to look at physical things — the budding white flowered cherry tree on the Midtown sidewalk, the unaesthetic and gargantuan black skyscraper faces rocketing from the earth around his apartment, the stray brown and orange cat that lurked on his porch steps  — with the glazed eyes he watched TV screens with, and not only did it make his vision weak and eventually require him to buy optometrist-recommended Optical Transitions® Vantage™ lens glasses with premium anti-reflectivity, but it qualified everything with the same artificial, myopic tint of watered-down, family friendly semi-reality that colored his television.

Being monumentally depressed like this, Chris had of course thought about dying, and its marginal benefits. Never considered the proactive approach — ghastly! — but of course still thought of it on maybe a weekly basis. Because when you’re depressed, you’re not enjoying life, and when you’re not enjoying life you’re going to think about what might make you happier instead. One regular pattern Chris unwittingly followed was to get insanely drunk at Cisco’s Bar with his friend Tom, also depressed but with 20/25 vision (irrelevant), and to walk home by himself at night across the overpass near his house, stopping on the bridge and glaring hazy- and bleary-eyed at the speeding cars and sneering at all the lowlife human creatures passing just below him — a physical hierarchy that brought him a limited level of joy. This is relevant because this was, for Chris, the pinnacle of self-affirmation in his life. His condescension of the physical world gave him an (admittedly very small) flutter of perceived worth, but on a relative level it was nearly all he had so he had to make the most of it. So he’d rest there for minutes, elbows on the rail, laughing in the dark and leering, all the while recognizing, even in his stupor, the conceptual ludicrousness of what he was doing. Yet still, he looked on with less a sense of self-pity than a kind of conscious self-affirmation and -denial and an abstract twinge of appreciation for the cars willingly submitting themselves under the tunnel for him.

And after this frequent episode, Chris would return home and microwave a porcelain mug of water to make fountain-of-sobriety tea before going to bed, thereby escaping his hangover from the physical world. Chris — still astronomically depressed despite his delicious tea — would flip his laptop open and stream late night shows, notably Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (irrelevant), and watch with booming indifference. The loneliness at this point would be staggering. The kind of yawning existential loneliness where he would spill a surprising amount of red Thai sauce on his otherwise clean white polo but fail to see the cosmic point of cleaning it off, and would sit there, continuing to half-watch TV covered in sweet sauce, not really even put off by it because the world was ending anyway and Wilco was playing “I Might” on Jimmy Fallon. And that, beyond the self-affirmation on the late night bridge, was the only way the metaphysically depressed Chris could find happiness. To curl up to Zooey Deschanel’s voice and Turkish mint tea but to paradoxically ignore the red sauce when it spills, and to always no-questions-asked glaze over the overwhelming world on the broader scale. Selective indifference –> Calculated ignorance –> Cousin of nihilism.

This formula of fucking-your-vantage-into-obscurity worked fairly well as a defense (albeit a brittle one) against his towering depression. It kept it in relative check notwithstanding the natural, inexplicable emotional flux that depression wreaks. Anyway, whenever the misfirings in his brain became too chaotic for coherent strategies, he only had to maintain a sort of entropic wavering between sides, and as long as he continued wavering, the depressed-but-alive or depressed-because-alive Chris (depending on your perspective) would end up somewhere in the middle. It will always get better, but it will always get worse again, but it will always get better, but it will always get worse again, but it will always get better.

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