(Trigger Warning: Depression/Anxiety and suicidal elements)
Justin watched the drop of water on the windowpane make its erratic descent. He was that drop of water. Falling. Descending. Taking everything down with him in his wake. Anybody who dared to get close to him were pulled deep into the pits with him. He was a cloud, dark and grey.
“Did you hear me?”
Justin jerked his head away from the window and looked at his best friend Charlie who sat across the table. The low light of the coffee shop was warm and sharpened Charlie’s narrow face. Between them were two ceramic mugs. Charlie had already downed most of his latte. Justin’s was mostly untouched. It was probably cold. Why had he even ordered it?
“So, you didn’t hear me?” Charlie’s scratchy voice took an edge.
Justin resisted the urge to look back out the window and simply stared at the mottled latte art in his mug. What could he really say at this point? That Charlie was wrong? Or right? Either way it would hurt, and Justin wasn’t entirely sure which statement would be the truth.
“I don’t know how to respond,” Justin muttered, hating how weak his voice sounded.
“That’s half the problem, man. You’re in this spot because you can’t figure out how to move forward.” Charlie paused. “You been seeing your therapist?”
Justin nodded. “My parents take me every week.”
“I thought therapists were supposed to help.”
Justin gnawed at his tongue, trying to decipher which words to roll out. “You do know a therapist isn’t like a genie or something, right?”
“Not what I meant.” Charlie leaned forward. “But you’ve been seeing this lady for weeks and you’re still…”
Justin tore his eyes away from his cold latte and looked at Charlie. His friend’s green eyes were full of concern but also, it seemed, resignation. “I’m still what?”
Charlie shook his head.
“No, say it. I’m still what?”
Charlie pinched the bridge of his wide nose.
“Fucking say it,” Justin growled, feeding into the angry bubble rising in his chest.
“Like this!” Charlie gestured at Justin as if that should say it all. “Combative. Stubborn. People try to help you, to listen to you, but you go deep inside your mind and shut everybody out. I mean do you even want to be better? Because, man, you are pushing everybody away. Don’t you see that?”
“Right. Okay. So, I’m a burden, is that it? My depression is just too much for you to handle?”
Charlie sighed and rolled his eyes. “That is not what I meant, Justin. You’re not a burden, but I’m burned out. This is a cycle. You do good for a month or two. And then? You descend into the pits. And I’ve told you before how hard it is to talk to you when you’re like this. It’s like you surround yourself with eggshells. I say or do one wrong thing and you erupt. You throw things in my face. You attack our friendship, you attack me. Your words can be so harsh. And I don’t think I have it in me to care anymore. It’s exhausting. It sucks. Are you taking your meds?”
Justin recoiled and hated the way his surroundings blurred. How could Charlie say this? Yeah, he struggled with major depression. It didn’t help he had high anxiety on top of it. The anxiety fed off his depression. Justin couldn’t help but analyze comments or texts or actions for a deeper meaning as if they were clues to a treasure chest of dark emotions. He questioned his place in the world, questioned who would really be there for him, and he’d make assumptions based off his surroundings. He knew it wasn’t fair or right, but he didn’t know how to process his internal battles any other way. Maybe he was just born to be broken. To be enslaved to mental illness, cursed to push others away from him.
And, no, he stopped taking his medicine two weeks ago after Maya, a girl in their senior class, hung herself from her ceiling fan because, according to her final note, the meds she was taking robbed her of feeling anything. Justin didn’t want to end up like Maya.
But maybe Maya had been right. Maybe that was the only way to escape from these curses.
“Justin. Jesus Christ. Did you hear me?”
Justin blinked back his tears, set his jaw, and said, “I fucking heard you. I’m exhausting. I burn people out, right? You just said you don’t care anymore. We’ve been friends since elementary school. And now? It doesn’t matter.”
Charlie shook his head. “Dude, I’ve been trying. I’ve been there for you. But our friendship is not the same as it once was. You’re different.” He leaned back. “We’re different. We have three months of high school left. College is on the horizon, and I have a lot going for me. I can’t… I can’t keep going down this path with you, Justin.”
Justin wanted to scream. To curl into the fetal position. To throw his mocha through the window. How could any friend, any true friend, say stuff like that? How was it possible for people to just flip a switch and not care anymore? To say, “Fuck it. This person is no longer worth it.” It wasn’t fair. He was trying. It was just taking time. That’s all. He didn’t want to be like this, to be a devastating cloud. He wanted to be better. But how could he be better if there was nobody left to support him?
Justin swallowed the lump in his throat, grabbed his keys and wallet, and stood up.
“Justin, where are you going?”
He ignored Charlie. Charlie didn’t care anymore, so why tell him anything? Feeling alone and abandoned, Justin left Shasta Beans, his favorite spot in town. He stepped out into the rain and knew it would be the last time he ever left this place.
Maya had been right.