7. Event Horizon

“Take me to the edge of my garden, then leave me there. Or you can stay if you like.”

We walked together so I could see the tranquil city below. Violet and blue hues of public landmarks lay among pale yellow lights of commercial chatter, all filtered through a screen of trees that spread down into the valley. Sound was numbed but vision acute on such a cold night. Impurities in the air seemed to grow leaden with ice quickly and drift to earth, forming a muted crunch of frost beneath our feet.

“Twenty minutes ago I lost everything, so now I suppose this land isn’t even mine. That’s why I don’t want you to feel responsible for me, because I’m not your problem. I could fall backwards from here or forwards and it wouldn’t make a difference: I stand on an edge that’s no longer sharp.”

His left hand took a cigarette to his lips as his right fumbled for a lighter.  A thumb brushed the striker with such little strength it produced just a few sparks that quickly vanished into the night air. When he found his stride the flame showed a tired face, wearisome and cracked with streak of old tears. He puffed twice, inhaled, then gave the evening fresh vapour to consume.

“I couldn’t even dig a grave in this earth. It’s cold, and hard. Cheap pistachio ice-cream that’s refrozen: ice crystals over something green. There’s nowhere to go.”

His face quivered momentarily and it looked as if he would cry again, but instead he turned on his feet and threw his lighter against the house. It smashed against the wall and flared briefly, a gout of flame that was over before it began.

“There’s nothing for me any more. I’ll just lie here, with the snow, and nothing else.”

Stiff and empty, he levered himself onto the ground, where he tucked his body into itself, and did nothing.

1. Depression

“Except they were just…what’s the word?”

“Counterfeits?”

“Counterfeits! Fakes! I warned him about buying clothes abroad but he wouldn’t listen. Now he owns a wardrobe  full of nothing that’ll probably just disintegrate in a few months.”

Amy heaved a laugh from her chest. It came free of her lungs then bounced through her throat like dry tumbleweed. Mike smiled dozily at her as Sam took a sip of her sparkling wine, ready to change topic.

“Of course house prices are dropping now,” she noted. “Mike and I were considering purchasing somewhere before the chance slipped us by”

Mike’s eyes flickered and his grin spread. As his face became more open his brow contorted, squeezing free a thin rivulet of sweat that dried a quarter inch down his temple. Amy noted his uncanny responsiveness to the conversation and immediately understood the topic was an old one for the two of them. 

“Except that now of course, given the climate, we’re unlikely to find buyers for quite a long time. But it’s important to put something aside for the future, don’t you think?”

Amy smiled and nodded with sincerity. She agreed it was important to consider the future, although it struck her as strange that a house could once be worth so much, and now so little, without having physically changed at all. Even now looking at her two friends, under the harsh overhead lights with their smiles and earnest expressions, she saw how delicate they truly were. A few misplaced words here or an act of nature there could so easily cause their world to cascade into oblivion. Mike and Sam’s sweaty, grinning countenances’ gave them the appearances of melting wax-works, struggling to hold themselves together under a rising sun.  

Depressions occur when we discover our fine clothes are invisible, our houses made of glass and that the friends we always knew to be impermanent reveal themselves as wax mannequins. If we examine the cause of a Depression economically, we see a situation of distrust and uncertainty created through plenty of optimistic thinking and excess. Previously grandiose plans can fold based on a relatively minor event that cascades like a house of cards back into their deck. No-one is prepared to lend to anyone nor take risks, and banks sit around trying to figure out what it is they do own and refuse to move until their basic needs of who they are, what they can do and where they go from their position are established. Sometimes, they need a helping hand from everyone else: the Government. They used to know this information and need to figure it out again soon. If they don’t, they’re open to bankruptcy and nationalisation.

Depressions foster depressed people for much the same reason. Previously their identities were bound with their ever burgeoning lifestyles; their property, their investments, their hopeful outlook on the future, but there is more people can learn from the economic crisis  beyond the message of placing faith in money. People have a tendency to over-inflate themselves as they are forced by society to put their personalities in the hands of something unstable. It may well be that a family are totally content with their daily routine, a city visit on the weekends and quiet nights in, and if so they’re the lucky ones. For others, there is a need to bloat their personalities to match their goals as the road to success can only be travelled at breakneck speed to keep up with everyone else. It’s inevitable there will be several crashes, from which people may or may not recover, but each one means another person gains frustrating moments on you until they crash themselves.

Sometimes, a depression is nice. It’s when you’re stuck on the roadside, the wreckage of your car formed from your history, your plans, your relationships and your ambitions, that you’re forced to take a look around and recognise the world beyond you. Usually it just zips by and you never get to see it, but for a while it’s right there in front of you. You know you can’t stay there for too long, but nonetheless, it’s welcome when it’s otherwise so easy to forget that it exists.