[Writing] Untitled Memoir, Chapter 1

Okay, so, this is the first chapter of my autobiography or memoir. As I said, I still don't know how I feel about it. I guess that's why I'm posting it: to see if I'm on the right track.

If you're going to comment on it, please say more than "It's great! Keep writing." I'd like responses that tell me what they like or don't like, what works and what may not work.

I: In My Mind’s Eye
(Approximately 2, 200 words)

Every journey I take inevitably ends here: The Bridge. I’m straddled over the side, looking down at the frigid waters, debating whether to jump. The river swirls like a black void. Its siren song calls me to join it. Infinite possibilities run through my overactive imagination:

Will I plunge into the water? How numb will I feel while I drown? Will I sink or will the current me carry away? Maybe I’ll sink while my hope floats away. Will anyone find my body or will it go forever unfound, slowly torn apart by the ravages of time and the sea?

Maybe I’ll hit an ice flow first. Maybe the fall won’t even kill me. Maybe I’ll lie there, shattered, unable to
move, until the cold air freezes me. Maybe I’ll slip into the water from there, which brings me back to the first line of possibilities. That’s appropriate for my life

After all, everything loops back around like an ouroboros. No matter what I do, no matter where I go, no matter who I meet, it all returns here: the bridge; straddled between life and death; deciding whether to jump or to walk away for another day. Sometimes I’m trapped for hours. Or days. Or weeks. Or months. Or years. Sometimes I avoid the bridge for just as long. But no matter what, I still return.

The bridge isn’t always a bridge. Sometimes my wrist straddles a knife edge. Sometimes a belt or a strap loops around my neck. Sometimes it’s a step into oncoming traffic. Sometimes it’s just walking away to some isolated place in the winter, stripping down to nothing, and letting the cold take me.

It seems cold is a running theme for me. It’s fitting. I always feel numb. Even in my better moods, I don’t feel up, I don’t feel down. I don’t feel anything. I’m just there. I exist and nothing else. I surround myself with distractions, killing time every day because it distracts me from killing myself. Books, comics, movies, TV shows, porn: anything to avoid people or my own feelings, or lack thereof.

On this bridge – the Princess Margaret one – a Honda Accord is parked not far from me. It’s not mine. It belongs to my parents. I could never afford my own car. But I still left of my own accord. I left my I.D. in the car so my death or disappearance wouldn’t be a mystery.

I think I left my id in the car, too. I’m overthinking this. Why can’t I just let go? What’s stopping me?

“What a fucking loser,” says an all-too familiar voice. “You can’t even follow through on suicide. You should do the world a favour. Finish yourself off.” It gestures to the icy Saint John River. “Jump.”

It’s straddled in front me. I say ‘It’ because its inhuman form matches its inhumaneness. It resembles me in the most grotesque, perverse way. It’s black and white with the barest of colours like the film Sin City. My Dark Half’s twisted facade is a funhouse mirror version of me: a filthy black shirt barely contains its bulbous form. Love handles bulge out through the dusty trench coat. A large badge in the shape of the theatrical masks Comedy & Tragedy is pinned to the lapel. Their faces look just like me. Unkempt hair has grown into a hideous mullet. Crumbs sprinkle its unshaven face. Its thick eyebrows link into a unibrow. Chubby cheeks puff out more than a hoarding squirrel. Acidic tears gush from its bloodshot, baggy eyes. The rolling tears sear its face. They leave scorched rivers down its cheeks. Every freckle on its body faintly glows. Buck teeth, coated in plaque, stick through its upper lip. An overlay of fresh red scars on its wrists resembles a tally system. Its mangled fingernails look like it picks and pulls at the tips rather than properly clip them. A golf ball-sized brown lump – a mole – protrudes out the side of its nose.

It stares in my direction, but never makes eye contact. It moves with as little possible effort. Not because it doesn’t want to, but because it doesn’t see the point. It wipes its runny nose on the back of its hand and smears the snot on a pant or on the front of its shirt.

This sickening vision personifies my worst self-image. It takes every physical trait that I’m self-conscious about and magnifies them. The disgusting sight twists my stomach. I try looking away. I try closing my eyes. But the image has burrowed itself into the deepest regions of my mind. It’s latched onto that part of my brain associated with self-image. It constantly reminds me of my faults. I don’t need a mirror to know how ugly I am.

“Why can’t you leave me alone?” I ask it. “Why won’t you go away?”

“Oh please, you’re not strong enough to get rid of me.” Its voice is distorted, like grinding cogs. “You’ve never been strong enough. You’ll never be strong enough.” It languidly waves a hand at the dark horizon. It’s perpetually 3 AM in this bizarre city. “You wouldn’t keep returning to this if I left you alone. Go on. Dwell on where you’ve lived. Look where it got you.”

Landmarks randomly dot the landscape as if a city builder didn’t care about their placement: a Sherman tank from Oromocto, Cape Breton’s Fortress of Louisburg and the mountainous Cabot Trail, Captain Bart’s Adventure Park’s space shuttle, Summerside’s red-stained farming fields, Halifax’s Citadel Hill and the Public Gardens, Toronto’s CN Tower, Honest Ed’s, and the Toronto Islands, Presque Isle’s wind turbine. Familiar sights I associate with places I’ve lived.

I see old workplaces: King Wok, Hogie’s Steakhouse, Blockbuster Video, Jumbo Video, Chapters, Cendant call center, Subway, Value Village, Swiss Chalet, and the Bike & Bean.

I see all the schools I’ve attended: Colby Elementary, Athena Junior High, Three Oaks Senior High, St. Thomas University, Rob Fuego’s wrestling school, York University, the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
Hospitals, clinics, houses, apartment buildings, biking trails, coffee shops, comic book shops, local arenas, chestnut trees, rhubarb patches; all scattered around this twisted mosaic vaguely resembling a city. It’s an overwhelming, jumbled, nonsensical sight.

And, of course, there’s The Bridge. It’s the largest structure in Mosaic City, dwarfing everything else like an imposing monolith. On one side is the confusing smorgasbord city. On the other is…nothing. It’s not black. It’s not white. It’s just nothing. The way we’re positioned on The Bridge, my back faces Mosaic City. My Dark Half’s back faces the nothingness. I think that’s where it came from: nothing. Technically, it doesn’t exist. It shouldn’t exist.

It replies as if it heard me. “You’re right. You shouldn’t exist. You’re nothing. You don’t belong here. You don’t belong anywhere. And you never will. You should jump.”

Maybe I should jump. It wouldn’t take much. I’m already halfway there. It wouldn’t even be a jump. It’s a drop. It’s letting go. It’s not a leap of faith. It’s a leap for the faithless. It’s the leap for the hopeless.

My Dark Half sighs, rolls its bloodshot eyes, and checks its watch. “Hurry it up. I have other shit to do. Stop wasting my time. Stop wasting everybody’s time.”

“I can’t,” I say meekly.

“I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!” It whines, mockingly. For added effect, it rolls fists in front of its eyes in a ‘boo hoo hoo’ manner. “More like won’t, you big fucking baby. Just something else you can’t follow through with. Like everything else in your life. Jared Arsenault was right: you are a loser, Woody. You were always a loser. You’ll always be a loser.”

“Shut up!” I shout. “Stop it! I’m not! I’m not a loser!”

“Yes you are. You’re the biggest loser ever. Everyone thinks so. Your so-called friends, Mom and Dad, your sisters, your nieces and nephew. They only talk to you because they pity you! Now jump, you fucking loser!”

My right foot, the one on the inside of The Bridge, stirs. But it’s not me moving it. It’s my Dark Half. It’s tugging at the pant leg.

“Just swing your fucking leg over. Or are you too fat and out of shape to even do that? Hey, maybe you’ll work yourself too hard and give yourself a heart attack, instead? Then you can fall into the river!”

I furiously kick its hands. I have more fight left in me than I thought. Now, my Dark Half is getting frustrated.

“Give up already. We’ve been here too many times. Aren’t you tired of fighting? I know I am!”

Without warning, a pair of arms forcefully wraps around me and hauls me off the edge. My Dark Half had me so blinded me, I didn’t see the police car come from Mosaic City. I didn’t see their flashing lights. I didn’t hear their blaring siren.

“Hey!” my Dark Half roars. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“It’s okay,” Agent Lamotrigine (badge #150) says with a soothing voice. It feels like months pass as he drags me to the car. “Don’t listen to him.”

“No!” My Dark Half stands up, balancing on the edge of The Bridge. “You have to listen to me! I’m the only one that puts up with your shit!”

I have no energy left to fight the officer. My Dark Half has sapped away most of my life. My feet drag along the pavement.

Agent Lamotrigine’s partner, Officer Concerta (badge #36), holds the back door open. Agent Lamotrigine does most of the work. They carefully guide me in, gently pushing me the whole time. I fight them, but barely. By the time I’m in the back seat, I’ve broken down into loud, heavy sobs.

Why couldn’t they let me finish the job? Why didn’t I just give in? Why did I bother fighting back at all? I wasted so much time thinking about it that I didn’t just go through with it. My doppleganger is right: I can’t follow through on anything. Even driving out to The Bridge was an impulsive act.

The officers leave me in the squad car to search my car. They’re looking for evidence of other people who might be with me. I don’t bother trying to get out. Why should I? It’s not going to solve anything. They’ll just drag me back to the car and then drive me to The Hospital. That’s what they always do. They’re the intermediaries between The Bridge and The Hospital.

Without opening the door, my Dark Half climbs in beside me. Its bleak aura fills the backseat. Its form is faded and intangible, but he’s still there.

“Don’t worry, Mole, I’ll never leave you.”
“They might help me this time.”

He leans in so close, his noxious breath nearly gags me. “How many times have these ‘agents’ helped you before? Hey, let’s play a game. Let’s list off all the ‘agents’ that helped you.” He takes my hands in his wretched, filthy ones and forces me to count with my fingers. “Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Paxil, Lithium.” He lists them faster and faster. He forces me to count until my fingers feel like they’ll break off.” Bupropion, Trazadone, Dexedrine, Lorazepam, Ritalin, Seretil, Effexor, Seroquel –”

“Stop!” I plead. Gushing tears soak my shirt. “I don’t want to be like this! I hate it!”

“But it’s all you know. This is your comfort zone. This is your safe space. Otherwise, you wouldn’t keep retreating to it. It doesn’t matter how many ‘agents’ help you. Eventually, they stop working and you’re right back to square one.”

As the officers drive me back into Mosaic City, my Dark Half whispers the same negative thoughts. It tells me how I’m a big loser. It tells me I should give up. It tells me I should go back to The Bridge and finish the job.

The agents hear everything while they drive me to The Hospital. Agent Lamotrigine cuts off my Dark Half at every opportunity. His words aren’t positive or negative; they’re neutral. He’s trying to get me to see reason over my Dark Half’s destructive words. My Dark Half defiantly gets louder. It devolves into an ugly shouting match, both of them fighting for dominance. Neither of them is willing to back down. My Dark Half becomes so distracted fighting Agent Lamotrigine, it almost forgets about me altogether.

Agent Concerta mostly focuses on driving. I’m amazed at his multitasking ability. He’s able to drive, change the radio stations, adjust the car’s settings, and still make time to turn around and say something to me, all while never missing a single turn on the insanely confusing, winding roads. The commute goes through back roads, one-way streets, long and short stretches of highways, paved roads laced with pot holes, gravel roads. They change without rhyme or reason, but Agent Conerta continues on like he has the route memorized.

All the way to The Hospital, The Bridge calls to me. I feel like, no matter what I do, I’ll always return to The Bridge. The thought of ending it all feels like a hopeless inevitability.
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I'm worried it's too on the nose or I spell it out too obviously. This stuff is outside my comfort zone.
I rather think you should be as on the nose as possible, that as this memoir progresses you cut back on the metaphors and poetry and write directly about your experiences and thoughts.

I'm under the impression that you want to tell your story after all.

But I totally understand this is outside your comfort zone.
Definitely given me more insight to what you are going through. It may be outside your comfort, but it is very compelling.
I rather think you should be as on the nose as possible, that as this memoir progresses you cut back on the metaphors and poetry and write directly about your experiences and thoughts
The way I'm structuring the chapters, every second chapter is like a confessional or a counselling session. It's less metaphorical and more discussing how depression affects me, depending on the themed topic.
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I like the writing, and the personification of the depression, regardless of whether or not I'll continue reading it (it can be hard to read about someone's extremely dark depression when you're still battling your own, less-dark depression). Either way though, I really hope you continue writing it. I think it could be a good starting point to some self-examination about your depression, and all of the things that you dislike about yourself, and it could be a tool to use in discussions with a good therapist.


Staff member

Keep writing this. Just got through with the first 4 chapters and aside from a couple of minor spelling/grammatical errors that will be picked up in editing, this is fantastic. I almost wish I didn't know Dill because the reveal of who everyone is in that group would have been more of a surprise to me.

This is seriously great stuff.