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  • Amber Shockley

Forgive me, I’ve been feeling dead for a while now.

There are oranges in the bowl. They rot.

I replace them. My husband doesn’t notice.

He thinks I am the same fresh girl. Though,

he teases me my sagging backside. His fingers

at the curve. Always asking

for breakfast. Cracked eggs. Forgive me,

yolk. Life once was. I end

a phone call with my mother. I walk

into the grocery store with that fresh-hearted

pang that comes from hard words to

someone you love, someone who loves

you, loved you, over and over again,

with a washcloth when you were sour

and rotten, replacing blankets and towels,

fresh, round and warm from the dryer,

its lullaby hum. At the store, a frost

forms on the glass, stocked cartons of milk

chilled inside buzzing machines.

Dates stamped in black, a calf’s little

tombstone to its mother, each one.

* "Calves of dairy cows are generally separated from their mothers within the first 24 hours after birth. The majority of the milk thus enters the food market and not the stomachs of the calves." - Early separation of cow and calf has long-term effects on social behavior,, 28 April 2015.

Friends, I am truly a sinner in the hands of an angry God.

In this time of pandemic, I have started ordering groceries online and picking them up. It is so convenient and quick, I'll probably be doing this even after the pandemic. I've already threatened to wear my mask for the rest of my life.

Have you seen the diagrams showing how far spit particles travel? I don't know how I'm supposed to just go back to some dream world where I pretend I'm not being covered in a fine spray of strangers' spittle.

Side story: My local grocery store has two floors. It also has a wine bar. The wine bar is up a flight of stairs on the second floor. Please, make that make sense.

Granted, there is also an elevator, but still. How many people that belly up to a grocery store wine bar are set up to make the best choices for themselves?

Anyway, I've been ordering my groceries online and picking them up so that I don't have to fuck with people, or second floors, or wine bars.

One down side is that you have to let someone else shop your groceries for you. You have to give up control. You have to accept help.

The anus twitches at the very thought.

Also, you may get a call before you go to pick up your groceries letting you know that a couple things weren't in stock. This is somehow worse than going and finding out for yourself that it's not in stock.

First of all, I can curse an empty shelf. I can stand there and silently curse my entire surrounding community, in my head. I can curse the CEO of the grocery store. I can curse the gods that mock us. I can't, or rather, I won't, curse the store worker on the other end of the phone. So, I don't get that release.

Also, if I find out that something is missing while I'm in the store, I can regroup and replace it with something else. This involves a process of calming down and accessing my rational brain.

But when they called to tell me that they didn't have the Entenmann's pop'ems glazed donut holes I wanted, I didn't have the time or space or access to regroup emotionally and move forward in that moment.

Also, ultimately I don't think it would have been appropriate to ask if she could a) check again b) tell me what other glazed donut hole options they might have or c) list out their available selection of cookies and cakes.

So I had to just sit there with my phone in my hand, devastated. Of all things, the donut holes.

Not just that, friends. I'm leaving something out.

There were two items that were out of stock that day. You know about the donuts.

The other item was chocolate milk.

Imagine it, friends. Imagine the delight of donut holes and chocolate milk that I was about to conduct for myself.

The gods envied me that day. The gods envied me, and they reached down and took this small bit of happiness away from me.

I've had many a therapist try to train my brain to look on the brighter side of life, to not always expect the worst to happen. But again and again, I learn: Don't count chickens. Or donuts. And I've learned resilience from my pessimism. I truly do feel better prepared to climb the mountain than, say, someone who didn't anticipate any boulders hurtling toward them and were completely lambasted.

What I'm saying is, keep climbing the mountain toward your donuts. Just, expect the boulders.

P.S. I went to a different store and got a dozen Krispy Kremes. OG...original glazed.

Okay, so you know how, according to Judeo-Christian creation myth, Adam and Eve ate "fruit" from the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" and all of a sudden they knew All The Things they didn't know before, and they couldn't take it back, they couldn't be God-sculpted innocent dummies anymore, and their punishment was to be kicked out of paradise? And you know how, through some complicated result of breeding that somehow for sure doesn't involve inbreeding, we're all, all of us, descended from these two original humans?

So, right...long story short, I don't know how anybody is an optimist. Where does your genetic material come from? Mars? Whether or not you take the bible to be the-infallible-word-of-God, there's something that sounds very right to me about the idea that our very beginnings as a species involved, basically:

Oh, you want to know things? Guess what? Get the fuck out of paradise.

You can't know things and be happy.

My brain veers toward depression. When I get depressed, what it feels like is this: I know things. I'm aware. And, knowing those things, the possibility of happiness seems absurd. I don't feel like a curmudgeon. I don't feel like a depressive. I feel like the Only Reasonable Person in a room full of happy, shiny, bouncing idiots.

What's actually happening is that my brain is taking the balance of beauty and misery and placing its thumb harder than usual on the side of misery, death, and injustice.

Anyway, I was sitting at a red light waiting to turn and go get my blood drawn ahead of a cardiologist appointment the other day, and I started thinking about ants. I started thinking about how many ants die in a day, how many are smashed or poisoned by humanity's colossal boot, and how we don't know - have no way of knowing - how many ants die every day, and we don't care. I started thinking about how, the smaller you and your life are, the less you matter, the less anyone cares. I started thinking about how incredibly small and insignificant most of us are.

I started comparing myself to Mahatma Ghandi. I calculated the time I have left on this earth, and reflected on who I am, my abilities and weaknesses, and the likelihood that I might be able to pull off doing something really, truly impactful before I die.

I felt bad for the ants. I got angry on behalf of the ants.

The light turned green.

For several months, I have been using Effexor as a fairly effective veil over the Evil part of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

But when I start ruminating on ants, and the absurdity of existence, I know that I am having a breakthrough Depressive Episode, and that perhaps my antidepressant is pooping out.

Then, yesterday, fatigue and apathy hit pretty hard. My movements were slower. I observed myself from inside myself. I found speaking difficult. I decided to fuck everything and go lay down. Just go ahead and have my damn depression.

I wasn't giving in, I was giving myself some grace. I was allowing myself to acknowledge that I was experiencing acute physical and cognitive symptoms, and that cleaning the toilet could fucking wait.

I was wearing my thin pink bathrobe that barely covers my ass. When I lay down, it in fact does not cover my ass.

Cue: cats.

They came in right away. CC got up on the bed and curled up into her tight, black hole of Judgement pretty quickly. Maddie was curious what I was doing. She got up on my hip, then she leaned down, and she...

Madeline "Maddie" Prue

She tried to sniff my private parts. Because my ass, and all other glory, was hanging out the bottom of my tiny pink bathrobe.

Somewhere deep inside my brain a neuron fired that registered the hilarity. It fizzled pretty quickly and pathetically, though. That's how tough depression is. It won't let me laugh at a cat trying to sniff my bare ass.

Maddie and I have, let's say, an intimate relationship that is more on her terms that it is mine. She asserts, I submit.

Last night, I was on the toilet when she asserted herself onto my lap.

Reader, to tell this story I have to tell you that I while I was on the toilet I was watching makeup tutorial videos on YouTube, with my headphones in.

Suddenly, the sound stopped. I was about to find out, for the millionth time, how to cut a crease, when all of a sudden - nothing. My first thought was something had happened with the phone itself. I pressed the volume button to no avail.

Then I saw it. The clean-chomped cord coming from my headphones.

She had done it in seconds. Like a bomb diffuser. Like she thought my life was in danger.

Morals of the story:

- The existence of optimists is not biblical.

- Depression feels like your regular, smart brain. Maybe even your smarter brain.

- Cats care not for the vanities of human experience. They exist to be served, and to satisfy their curiosities. They will, however, save us.


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