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<the visitor>

A few days back, the doorbell rang. It was Depression.
        "Sorry I'm late," Depression said.
        "I wasn't expecting you," I said.
        "That's strange," Depression said, pulling a folded itinerary from his deep black pocket. "According to this schedule, I should have been here two weeks ago."
        "Two weeks ago I was at my mother's funeral," I said.
        "My point exactly," Depression said, neatly re-folding his itinerary, and stepping boldly past me with his two bulging suitcases.


Depression plopped his baggage down on my bed, and trotted off to the kitchen to fix himself a sandwich.
        "You're out of mayo," Depression said.
        "I wasn't expecting anyone," I said. "Uh, look, I'm writing a book, I've got ten days to finish the last three chapters, and that doesn't leave me any time to hang out. Maybe I can help you find a hotel or something."
        "This milk is sour," Depression said, wiping his mouth on the back of a large pale hand. "So where's the girlfriend, pal? She dump ya?"
        "Joan's visiting her family," I said. "I'll be joining her in ten days. Which is why I need to get back to work. So if you've finished your snack—"


But he was already rifling through my CD collection. "Got any Radiohead?" he asked. "Oh, hey, this'll do." It was John Lurie's melancholy soundtrack to Stranger Than Paradise.
        "Boy, that's some sad shit," Depression said approvingly, as atonal strings started to throb from the speakers like an amplified breaking heart. "You know, pal, I've got the feeling we're going to play this baby a lot while I'm here."

"Listen," I said, "I've got tons of work to do, phone calls to return —"
        "You're not going to return those calls," Depression said. "And as for that so-called work, forget it. Hey, what day is today?"
        "Um, Wednesday," I said.
        "Friday, pal," Depression said. "See what I mean? You're depressed, all right. That's why I'm here."
        "No, I'm fine," I said. "Just haven't been sleeping all that well. And I think maybe I ate something—"
        "You haven't eaten all day. Don't kid me, brother. Writing a book, huh? I've got your book. It's called My Mom's Dead. See? Here's your picture on the cover."
        He was right.
        It was a very heavy book.


I've been alone with him since Wednesday. Every time I start to work he comes into my office and distracts me. I stare at my answering machine. I think about returning my friends' calls, but somehow he persuades me to clear the messages and lie down in the dark. Yesterday he stopped me from phoning my girlfriend. When I tried to shave earlier, he threw away the razor. I considered going out for dinner but he opened a can of soup and a box of stale pretzels.
        Around midnight I figured out how to restructure the first few chapters of the book, but Depression plopped a pile of unpaid bills on my desk, wordlessly guilt-tripping me into inactivity. Later I tried designing something, but found him standing beside me, tapping the monitor with a disapproving forefinger.
        "Helvetica Neu Condensed Black again," he said. "No sense reinventing the wheel, I guess."
        "Please don't touch the monitor," I said.
        He snorted. "Like you're going to do anything useful with it."


When he isn't talking about me, he's talking about the Election.


At night he keeps me awake with his heavy footfalls and labored breathing. He makes me sit beside him and watch television. Last night we watched Stranger Than Paradise twice.
        "I admire its bleakness," he said as the credits rolled the second time. "But it's undermined by a subtly redemptive humor, which suggests, however obliquely, that life is somewhat bearable. Oh, well. What say we just play the CD again?"


He's installed himself as a kind of executive secretary.
        "Call your Dad today?" he says, patting my thigh. "I bet he's lonely, with your mother gone. Oh well, not your problem."
        Or he points to the plants I've neglected to water. "Those'll die soon," he observes.


He's begun redecorating the place, after a fashion. He leaves underwear in a corner of the bedroom. Fills the sink with unwashed dishes. Deposits excrement in the cats' litter box. The strange thing is how quickly I am getting used to his presence.

He is reading over my shoulder as I type these words.

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