you were six and it lived in the boy behind the gas station counter
you were six and it lived in the boy behind the gas station counter who gave you a penny with your birth year on it
you were eight and it wore the face of the woman who had too many yappy dogs and accidentally set her garbage on fire with her cigarettes and your mother referred to as “the poor thing”
you were ten and it was sucking the life from your aunt who never went to work and never learned to drive and always smelled of mildew and you never understood why she wouldn’t just do all the things she said she wanted to
you were twelve when it was you, too, when it moved in and it liked the view and now it wore your body, too.
thirteen saw it explode into your world like fireworks. it was the pretty preppy girl everybody love-hated with her big house and rich family and perfect skin and it was the teacher with a white tan line where her wedding ring used to shine who graded you all so harshly that eventually she was written up for it since you all complained so loudly
fourteen you had met it, it had worn you, it was controlling you completely, an absent numb that swallowed you completely, a blankness you called a demon or a darkness or a devil, or something, but it wasn’t you, was it, it was just a voice that was angry and tired all of the time and never felt anything – it was in your circle of friends, it was the face of your brunette friend who liked doctor who and squids and who tried to swallow so many tylenol that she briefly saw god, it was wearing the skin of the happy-go-lucky funny one who had “too much meat” on her ribs, it was your male best friend who was always too skinny and if you moved too fast towards him, he’d flinch
you were fifteen and it started to walk the bodies it wore under the ground. it took your friends from your hands and it took the lives of strangers. you cannot feel anything. you cannot do anything. your body is a weight that you are too weak to carry. you are always tired. you want to do a handstand underwater and never come up after.
at sixteen it is your best friend with her pale blonde hair, having a panic attack outside of her classroom for getting a B on her report card. it is the way she pushes herself to the edge of her own ability. it is you, and it is her, and it is living in the chest of most people you know. it is the cheerleader and the sci-fi geek both.
seventeen. a boy on the football field became a boy under a small stone. people say, “he didn’t look depressed. how could we have known?”
and you want to tell them: depression does not have a look. it takes over in such a sly way that only those who have lived it know how to look for it. it wears the bodies of the girl dancing on the table who just did ten shots and it has the skin of the one who sits at home with her razors tucked in a box (sometimes, they are the same girl, and i have been her). it will inhabit the bones of your angry boss, of the man who just cut you off, of the boy who never stops making jokes. it roosts in the chest of poets, of artists, of the prom queen. it is clever. it knows how not to be seen.
it is in you, and it is in me. i look out for it in the bodies of others, now. the only way to kill it is to bring it into the light. i see you, and what you’re going through, and we can both fight.
By Raquel Isabelle de Alderete