Friday, June 27, 2008

A Touch of the Sun

I used to personify him as the sun, his mattock as the sunlight. He always struck from behind. The blow itself was heavy but dull, a vast hammer muffled in layers of dirty canvas. But it was no mortal hammer, because its weight didn't lift after he struck. Death by pressing. The weight would bear down on me mercilessly, easing only at sundown.

He's not such a power in my life, now. I have even learned to enjoy sunlight sometimes, gingerly; to get some faint sense of the pleasure other people take in it. But I don't think we'll ever be friends.

Yesterday he struck again. Only an echo of his former strength. I called in sick to wait it out. Provisioned myself: a bag of potato chips and a fat book of naval history. Do your worst. Our castle walls will laugh a siege to scorn. (Hmm. The Scottish Play. Bad idea. Still, I didn't say it out loud.)

Depression makes you superstitious. You hearken after prophecies and dreams. As the world's messages become more and more opaque, you strain harder and harder to read them. Indeed, my Lord, I am too much i' the sun. (That's better.)

I lose myself in the fitting out of the United States, the Constitution, and the Constellation. Pound L'Insurgent to a pulp in the West Indies. It doesn't trouble me that in real life I would have been of Jefferson's party, railing against the useless expense of a navy, and the needless antagonization of the French, when we needed desperately to pay off the national debt. No; as a woman whose comfort-reading runs to novels of female submission, though she has no desire for it in real life, in the spell of the book that I become a Federalist, hankering for bigger, faster ships, more glorious battles, paying off old scores. We'll show the Barbary States what it means to abuse Americans, by God. They'll be singing a different tune when the heavy frigates arrive. I enter the emotional world of George Bush. At some level I understand it to be a pathological world, but I'm not going to worry about that now. My business is to survive the day.

And so I stand the seige. The sun's in his glory, within days of the solstice, a power to be reckoned with. But night comes at last. The weight eases. Tomorrow I will be fine. This was so light an episode that I dally with the deprecations so common in early depression, before you've learned what you've really come to grips with: Oh, I'm exagerating. I could really have gone to work. I'm just indulging myself. With an effort of will-power I could have just shaken it off. Should have, could have, would have, the familiar long whisper of self-castigation. It still runs inexorably, even though I don't believe a word of it any more. But it dwindles and peters out, as the cool night comes.

And, on the third launch attempt, the newly-built Constitution runs sweetly down its skids to the harbor, plunges into the water, and rocks gently under the stars.

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