1. The Antidepressants
Early into loving uhhhh, fuck him, I’m just going to call him The Unlovable Man, he says Why are you so sad today? — you’ve got me and everything we need right now. How can I tell him that when he is a polite little spoon curled up beside me that I am thinking I want my absence more than I want his presence? We curl our hands together and I think of his body an anchor, I think of our bed as the ocean, I take deep breaths and imagine how much I want to sink. I go back on antidepressants and I tell him for the first time of the sadness I carry with me, I try and pick the right metaphor but there are not enough metaphors for how much I sometimes want to leave this world. I tell him every day has felt like an absolute lovely party and I am the only one left or the only one who showed up and there is music playing and babies and flowers and kittens and good sex and even though I want it all: I want nothing now. I want to be nothing.
He listens, as honestly as I think he could have mustered, and says: Taking shit like that is for weak people. You’re stronger than that.
I know he probably meant well. I stop taking the meds that night. I ignore my doctor’s phone calls and letters. I think: with The Unlovable Man maybe my brain and nervous system and all the innards of me that make me suicidal will just stop. That if he loves me enough, I can stick around. I start thinking of his kisses as SSRIs, his hugs as controlled breaths, his fucking as a straitjacket. He says, On the bright side, you can do psychedelics with me anytime now. Fun fact: if you’re on any form of antis or mood stabilizers—shrooms, acid, all of ‘em will not work. Your brain will have reconfigured itself; it will have tricked all the receptors into giving you what you need when the pill hits. It will keep any kind of serotonin flooding (good or bad) from even dripping. It will say, This is your emotional reality now, good fucking luck, chump.
2. The Acid Trip
It’s a beautiful day in 2012 and The Unlovable Man and I have just taken two hits of homemade acid. As the good vibes slowly start to set in, we go for a long stroll and cackle over the most absurd shit: yards with miniature fences, people who go by Tom but spell it T- H-O-M, how Accounting Brenda’s new haircut says that either she likes to get choked or she’s gonna have to speak to someone’s supervisor. He says that in the acid-light, I look like a twirling Stevie Nicks with my siren hair flying. He says, You are so far and away from anyone I have ever known, I love you in your queerness, I love you in your gender weirdness. He says, I love your nails and when your eyeliner gets a little smeary. I think it’s the psychedelics talking, but IDGAF, I’m a Leo and the least difficult of everyone: I just want boundless love. We’re cuddled up on the floor of my living room watching the shadows do yoga on the walls. He is holding me as I cry and is confused and I say: I think, I know, beside you, right now is the happiest I have ever been in my life. He lets me sob into the crook of his shoulder as the acid waves slowly ebb to a stop.
We fall asleep fully clothed and wake up to the Sandy Hook shooting. I make an ultimatum to myself at the newsbreak: compliment a stranger every fucking day, do not let the darkness consume everything, do not let the last twinglings and twinges of yesterday be lost to gunfire. Now, even three years later, I still say, OMG, I love your skirt or WOW cool hat and I wake up to more and more national tragedies and The Unlovable Man is not beside me.
The Unlovable Man pulls up one day and says, Get your shit, we’re getting out of this fucking city and going camping. I throw my bags together; we make an emergency pit stop to his dealer’s place for weed and get road beers at the liquor store. Two hours later we are at the Black River in Wisconsin, paddling in a fucking rinky-dink canoe, passing a grape White Owl blunt between us. We stop along the shores in secluded areas for quickies and smoke breaks. We smell of blueberry kush, sex, and sunscreen. We paddle on and then, like a 13-year-old’s wet dream, we see a crowd of unclothed bodies sunbathing along the river’s edge. Surprise surprise, there’s a fucking nude beach and there are all kinds of bodies, a group of sketchy looking men coming from behind some tall grass, their dicks still snotting. We think, we didn’t really see an orgy on today’s agenda, but ya know, ya just go with the flow.
We set up camp not far from Wiener Beach. We spend the day in our birthday suits. We fuck outside in a thunderstorm. I worry about turning into the next Powder with him inside me. If I am to be struck dead, let it be during some really good butt stuff.
We bathe in the river and head back to Chicago with the muck still under our nails. I think that maybe, this is what I’ve always wanted. Someone who will just dominate the fuck out of me, who will say, I love the fuck out of the body you’ve cut and scarred even if you don’t, I will love the fuck out of you even when you’re too depressed to even get up. I will love you naked, I will love you crying. I will love all the blue in you that you’ve been trying to get rid of since you can remember. I will love you when you don’t love yourself. I will love you even after I break you.
4. The Art Institute of Chicago
The doctor says early signs—as if blindness is some roadside attraction that we must abso- fucking-lutely stop and check out. I have a panic attack in the office; she holds my hand. She keeps saying more tests and tests and tests and all I hear is money and money and money. She says treatable as if she can take back what she has already said. I can’t afford the extra testing because I’m already losing a day of pay for this appointment. I call into work sick for the afternoon because fuck capitalism, right? I take the train and cry the whole way, nestled in the little back booth reserved for blunt rolling and homeless piss. I don’t care about the stench. I don’t care about anything.
I chain smoke in front of the Art Institute and lie to my mother about the appointment. I say it’s all is great. I’ve got soooo much writing to get done today, I can’t really talk that long. I’ll call you when I get home, love you a ton! I go inside the Institute and sit in front of my favorite painting ever, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. I pull out my journal and rename the colors to something that when the blindness comes, I’ll be able to recall the exact color of each shade with a memory: my sister’s red prom dress, the yellow pages of my eighth grade edition of The Giver, my grandmother’s black cane. I sit in front of the painting until close. I do not care about crying in front of strangers. As I hop the train, I try my damndest to look on the bright side: what synesthesiastic trait might I develop as a coping side effect? I want to taste blue so bad I bite the inside of my cheeks until they bleed. I want the rust of it. I want I want, the I wants so much, and I want every color now that I know I’ll lose them soon.
5. The Skinny Dip
In less than five hours, I will be 29 and naked in Lake Michigan. It’s a birthday tradition I started with The Unlovable Man six years ago. My first birthday party in Chicago was Ke$ha themed; I was all glitter and grunge with a beautiful blue streak across my face. My apartment was so hot with all the bodies dancing that posters start falling off the wall.
Our face paint starts dripping. The Unlovable Man gathers the rowdy crowd, all hopped up on cheap vodka and purple headband, and says, Let’s take the birthday boy to the beach. Imagine it: a crew of thirty people in heaux clothes and glitter strolling to the beach at 1:45AM. We get to the lakeside and I don’t know what came over me, but I grabbed the Unlovable Man and said, Let’s get naked and get in, let’s all get naked and get in. 60 nipples—sorry, 61, The Unlovable Man has 3—drift into the freezing lake.
I start to drift out purposefully; I like the feeling of the lake floor slowly disappearing beneath me as I float farther from shore. I think of The Awakening and how long a body can float. How long until this meat carcass is a raisin lost at sea, er, lake. The Unlovable Man is so far away from me now as if I, finally, have become invisible. The cops are chasing my friends and I am still floating.
As I turn back to the shore, I realize how much more of the lake I wanted, in my belly and in my hair, I wanted my bones to be filled with freshwater. I hear Fiona Apple singing in my head: We started out sipping the water/ and now we try to swallow the wave/ and we try not to let those bastards get us down/ We don’t worry anymore cause we know when the guff comes we get brave/ After all, look around:/ it’s happening, it’s happening, it’s happening now. For most of my life I have wanted all the blues in the world to quantify my grief, but I want whatever happens tomorrow more. Naked tonight, I will say again and again: I want. I want. I want.
C. Russell Price is a Virginian genderqueer punk poet and essayist. They are a Lambda fellow in poetry, a Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree, and a Literary Death Match Champion. Their chapbook Tonight, We Fuck The Trailer Park Out of Each Other was published last summer by Sibling Rivalry Press. They are currently at work on a full length poetry collection (Human Flesh Search Engine) that explores a queer apocalypse and a collection of essays centered around sexual abuse survival and southern American generational trauma. It is tentatively titled Everyone Is Doing It; They Just Aren’t Telling You.