There are people who can pinpoint the exact start of their depression.
– I was six years old and stood by a window one sunny day, looking out at the street when a shadow of a bird flying over our house touched my face. I turned around and everything had become black and white and gray. My parents had to put me on pills. I have been on pills from then on.
– I was sixteen years old, the love of my life moved to another town and went to another school. One sunny October day I lied down on bed and didn’t move till they hospitalized me. I have been on and off antidepressants since.
For me there is no such a clear point. Nothing turned gray in a split second from being touched by a shadow of a crow. No heartbreak was strong enough to break my brain in a single snap.
I don’t think loss of a friend did anything to me.
It swept over me like a soft wave and went away. It might had left some toxic sediments, but they are invisible.
Petya was 6 years younger than me and my best friend Tanya. It was September, first week of school that abruptly ended my and Tanya’s free roaming and unstructured days. Petya was too young for school, he had a whole free afternoon ahead of him. None of us went to kindergarten. Soviet Union didn’t have enough of anything, including kindergartens, and it was mandatory that both parents work. So in the morning parents would put an apartment key on a string around their young children’s necks and walk off to work. The key around our necks was like a leash on a homeless dog. It showed we belonged to somebody, but didn’t hinder our moving about.
Around Noon on our way to school we convened by the pond.
We examined piles of muddy earth around the pond brought by “Zil” trucks a day before. The pond was to be filled up and another apartment building erected in it’s place.
We rolled one of the clay lumps into the water. It made a marvelous splash.
Petya got excited.
– Look, there is another lump! It’ll make much better splash.
He nudged us to move the big lump. But me and Tanya had pristine white aprons, we had a school to go to. Petya himself was immaculately dressed, in clean beige pants and light blue ironed shirt. There was a certain goodness that he always exuded, an aura of a good boy eager to please, which was attractive and annoying at the same time. Tanya certainly exuded badness, she was a daughter of alcoholics, her apartment was a nest for all local drunks. She always gave me lice.
Now Petya’s goodness was led astray as he was inspired to make a perfect splash with lumps of clay.
– Please, help me to move this thing.
He pushed one particularly big lump, his cheeks puffed up. He couldn’t move it on his own.
I started toward him.
– No, – Tanya stopped me. – Let him work.
I think she enjoyed seeing Petya’s baby blue shirt get dirty. Petya’s mother, Tanya’s neighbor across the hall, would have to soak and wash by hand the muddied shirt and pants.
– Lets go, – she suddenly said and turned to go.
I looked at Petya.
– Why don’t you pick a smaller lump? Like this?
I pointed at one lump with my shoe.
– Nah, it wont make a good splash.
But he kicked the lump anyway and it fell into the pond gently breaking the water.
– You see? It has to be big.
– Be careful.
– Yah, yah, – he said, his attention turned to another lump.
I joined Tanya and we briskly walked off to the school.
Five hours later we came back. Near the pond there was a small excited gathering around Petya’s father who with a long stick was raking the bottom of the pond. Petya’s mother was standing motionless, like a stone, looking at the surface of the water the stick was stirring.
– What happened? – we inquired.
– Petya might have fallen into the pond, – was the answer.
It sounded too abstract. Like an algebra gibberish. Just a few words but incomprehensible.
We shrugged and went home.
But ten minutes later a shriek made me to run back to the street.
– Petyenka! Petyusha! – Petya’s mother wailed.
Petya’s father was carrying wet, limp, pale body of Petya through the village. An apartment key attached to a black shoe string was hanging from Petya’s neck. Father’s face was serious, focussed, he was not looking at anybody, anything, just straight ahead.
Petya’s mother was clutching to her son’s stretched out arms, she was looking at his face and screaming:
– Petya, Petyusha, look at me! Look at me!
She would turn her head and look wildly at the gathered neighbors who quietly, with hushed whispers followed them. She would say to them with a tearful, manic assurance:
– His lids moved! He is opening his eyes! He is waking up!
Then she would look at Petya again and kept wailing:
– Petya! Petya! Look at me, look at your mommy!
I run back to the apartment, to my mother.
– Mom, what happened?
– Petya drowned.
– But he is opening his eyes!
– No, my love. No one is opening his eyes after being under water for five hours. He is dead.
There was a knock on the door. Tanya was standing on the landing.
– Do you know we were the last ones to see Petya alive? – she whispered. – Do you know that we could have saved Petya if we told him to stop playing with the lumps?
Another algebra task. How do I put it together to make sense?
– But… but we told him to be careful.
– No. That was not enough. We should have dragged him away from the pond. It is our fault Petya died. We killed him.
I woke up in the middle of night with a scream.
The guilt, the horror, the feeling of loss, but mainly sharp guilt and a newly gained understanding that one day I’ll too, be carried through the village and someone (my Mom?) will weep and scream: “She is opening her eyes! She is waking up!” while in fact I’ll be going straight to a white coffin and then – under the ground, into non-existence. It will all happen without any warning, any premonition. One moment I’ll be eating breakfast, putting on baby blue shirt, the next one I’ll be dead.
But no. This was not start of my depression. Nothing turned black and white and gray at that moment.
Children are like balls tight with air – they bounce right back from a bad experience.
It is a continuous bad experience that kills them.
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