The day after I may or may not have broken up with boyfriend, my old professor emailed me.  She asked if I’d be interested in a job teaching a lit course to nurses and social workers. It would be at 8am in the middle of winter, where ice is slick and thick, where darkness stretches on for hours.

I had graduated a year ago with my MFA – an overrated degree with an over-inflated price tag.  Student loans were rolling in, boasting ridiculous payment coupons and accruing interest faster than my anxiety and fear could keep up.  I was barely employed, working a few hours a week at a paper pushing job in a crummy legal warehouse for cigarette and gas money.  My boss was a bitch with a pinched face and designer jeans. Most of my co-workers were twenty something boys who refused to leave their high school days behind, coming in with bloodshot, blurry eyes and crumpled clothes that reeked of stale beer and cheap vodka. They would sneak in the back of the warehouse, playing poker on the cement floors with cigarettes, doing the crossword puzzle from the local paper.  It sucked.

Earlier in the week, I was trying to quit smoking again.  My boyfriend was unshaven and unkempt.  Mania had come to visit, pushing paranoid thoughts into his brain, keeping him up for days until the world started to blend into one giant, waking dream.  Puffing away on some lame cherry flavored e-cig, I grabbed his hand and led him to the hospital.  I told him everything would be alright.  That all he needed to do was check in, get some serious meds, some serious sleep.  But really, I needed a serious break or else I’d break. I was teetering on the edge of craziness, peering into a dark pool of depression that I feared I couldn’t escape.  My post-graduation blues ceased to be fleeting, but stretched on for weeks.  My capacity to care, support anyone else dwindled.  I needed to save myself.

A few days later, I visited him in the hospital, the same hospital I had been ten years prior after suicide attempt.  They had refurbished the place, decked it out in smooth, shiny wood and new chairs.  It looked open and bright, like one of those fake, living room installments at Ikea. The patients wore rust color scrubs that reminded me of prison jumpsuits.  We sat in his room under a blaring light that illuminated his pale, scratchy blankets, his stack of paperwork from a social worker, a blue folder full of forms and charts and affirmations.  I kicked my feet up on his bed while he paced.  “When I was here,” I said, “it looked different.  Everyone was wearing blue scrubs. Maybe some stupid psychologist told ‘em rust was a happier shade.”

I told him everything would be alright and left, waving as I was pushed out the heavy, locked door by a wide shouldered nurse in a striped shirt. On the way home I bought an overpriced back of smokes.  I bought a few bottles of Pinot Grigio.  I called the only person I liked from work, a cute lesbian with a military hair-cut who was unlucky in love. She was sad because her new girlfriend was in jail.  I was sad because my boyfriend was in the psych ward.  We drank wine, listened to sappy Neil Diamond, Elton John, and Queen.  We sang, loud, proud, and poorly the way only drunks and desperate people do.

Fueled by the honesty, the confidence that only a bottle of wine can give you, I called my boyfriend in the hospital. It was quarter to ten, and the nurses were about to shut off the phones for the night.

“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” I blurted out.

“You’re dumping me in the psych ward?” I could tell he was tired.  But I was tired, too.  I back pedaled, using phrases like “needing space” and “taking a break.” I heard a nurse in the background, telling him to wrap it up.  We left it at a bunch of sighs and “see you arounds.”

In the morning, I got the email from my professor. I was waiting for this break, for an opportunity to tell my pinched-faced boss and childish co-workers to shove it, to stomp out of the warehouse with my heavy, black boots pounding against the cement floor.  I thought of various ways to call and quit, to stick it to them like it hurt.

Instead, I dialed the hospital number, the extension in the North building, was punched through to his unit.  Because I realized I had no one else I’d rather tell.

We talked.  I wondered if this would be the last time, because afterwards I felt dirty, ashamed.  Kind of like the way you hook up with an old flame when you’re feeling dejected and lonely, when you’re scared and searching for something familiar to anchor you.  But afterwards, you feel more depressed than before, remembering why you broke up in the first place, that the anchor was cracked, flawed, broken.



20 Responses to “Anchors”

  1. 1 Rose

    Love it! And so good to see you again. Hope all is well in your realm!

    • Thanks Rose for sticking through all this with me. I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like, but I’ll keep trying to get something out there every few weeks.

      • 3 Rose

        Well, Ms. LennonSundance…your posts are directly emailed to me, so I won’t miss out. I have faith in you to keep writing, and look forward to a time when you can write as often as you please. My support for you is right here.

  2. I re-blogged this. I really felt this in so many ways. I was married to someone abusive and yet find myself missing him because we shared so many years together. I’ve had a lot of crappy jobs and want to get in a library, a job I had 30 years ago, but dread getting one in the winter that’s not close by.
    This felt so familiar.

    • I’m happy you connected with it. Pushing past all the bullshit that holds us back is the hardest thing in life, I believe. Good luck with your library job.

  3. Hey I really like this, I pushed it to my plus people. Left me wondering did u take the job? And how did that go? I hope there’s a part two. God I can relate ob so many levels. Having a degree and a loan and then a deadened job. Having a boyfriend in the psych Ward. Feeling your desperation. Thanks. Katya @

    • Thanks! Yes, there’s more of the story, though some of it is in the works. I think feeling stuck in a dead-end job instead of pursuing your dreams is a common theme, sadly. I’m glad it spoke to you.

  4. 8 pinklightsabre

    Nice piece of broken glass.

  5. Extraordinarily great, as always.

  6. Your writing is pretty damn real. I thorougly enjoyed it.

  7. I should have read this last week before a decision I made. Of course, I knew the outcome already; sometimes just pretending things will turn out differently.
    Thank you for the eloquent piece.

  8. Hello! Where did you go? I miss you!!!

    • Where I’ve been: Lithium Land. Teaching (expressing all of myself like a crazy clown to keep sleepy students awake and alert and hopefully learning)

      Where I am: weaning. Trying new shaped pills with expensive co-pays. Not sleeping well. Trying to write again. This is my first postcard. Hopefully, there will be more.


      • OMG it is so good to hear from you!!!!! I have missed you like mad!! It sounds like you’re doing well, eh? Thanks so much for your response!! Hope you kick the blog back in to running!! 🙂 🙂 😀

    • Either the Gods are out to get me by sucking my clever, truthful response or you mysteriously got it and this is redundant.

  9. Hey, I’m a new blogger and just happened to go through your post. It’s amazing how you’ve described every little detail of went you went through. It takes a lot of courage to admit to the truth and then pen it down. Most people end up burying these emotions deep inside, but you’re a strong person. Loved your writing. Keep up the good work. 🙂

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