The Cleaner and His Cat

He caught himself staring blankly at his coffee, wondering how long he’d been sitting, cup in hand. The last sip must have been hot. He could still feel the blister on the tip of his tongue.

Like a Picasso, a dark sadness hung on his face. He hated the look. “Definitely his blue period,” he mused, half smirking at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. 

He mostly avoided reflective surfaces. Feeling depressed was terrible enough; he didn’t need to see it. He didn’t need to be reminded of it.

His cat circled impatiently, rubbing against his calf. “Time to eat,” he purred . . . . “Snap out of it!” he meowed. 

On days like today, he was grateful for his cat. The cat’s well-timed reminders kept the man from the doorknob and belt, and the dark thoughts that tied everything together. 

He whispered, “My demise will have to wait; there’s a cat to feed and a litterbox to clean.”

His apartment was a shambles. It mirrored the cluttered chaos in his head. Based on experience, he knew a good house cleaning would lift his spirits.

He often wondered how external feng shui works its magic on the mind. “I’ll have to google that,” he says in the direction of his full-bellied cat, who bathes contently in a patch of sun on the kitchen floor.

The sink is full. There’s half-eaten food caked on dishes, the remnants of last week’s menu. Why not just clean up after each meal? Especially knowing that cleanliness and order helps quell his anxiety.

“Why do I let things pile up?

What keeps me from staying on top of things? 

Will I ever grow out of this?

That last question bounces around the inside of his skull like an unselected lottery ping-pong ball.

Will I ever grow out of this?

Of course, he didn’t know the answer to that question. He remembers a bright era of pre-affliction, which gives him hope. He thinks “if I magically went from being happy to being depressed, why can’t I miraculously go from depressed to happy?”

Unfortunately, there’s a history – a consistent footprint on the ladder of his family’s DNA. In a sense, he’s been branded, and sometimes that feels so fatalistic, he just wants to give up.

But he doesn’t.

He continues to clean.

Tangled up in Black

In the alleys of your heart

In the backstreets of your brain

from the constant buzzing beltway

under rusted lock and chain


In the pain inside your sternum

the boiled marrow in your bones

lurks an ever-growing darkness

over jagged rocks and stones


In dark valleys of depression

and the not so grand delusions

In a vice grip of obsession

In your manic-plagued illusions


With a never-ending stipend

of more than you can bear

an abundant over-ripened

softened fruit

of deep despair


An undefined sad solitude

that something is amiss

always on that taunting edge

of a welcoming abyss


an open-ended sadness

a journey never-ending

exhausted by the battle plan

of constantly pretending


You’re looking for an exit

a respite from the black

An offramp from the sadness

a train that jumps the track


“I can’t believe he did it

I can’t believe he’s gone

no one truly knew

the darkness of his dawn”

Was is Hope

Scattered thoughts

in worry’s kettle

they boil, bubble

and test your mettle


Your day gets buried

by tomorrow

Deep distress

morphs into sorrow

Sorrow blooms

into despair

With eyes shut tight

you cut your hair

You live your days

in underwear

Stained coffee cups

are everywhere


The blinking light’s

unanswered calls

Just windows, ceiling,

and four walls

Kitchen trash

and rotting fruit

Dirty laundry

crumpled suit


Gripped by it

it sticks like tape

Thoughts are formed

and then take shape

and so, you plan

your great escape


Then . . .

The sun

Seeps through

the blinds one day

Her emergence

takes your breath away

You brush your teeth

You comb your hair

A welcome break

from your despair

You hope it lasts;

you pray it does

Then it dawns on you

That hope is “was”


Because . . .

“was” is change

always pending

A twisting road

unknown and bending

I was depressed

it went away

It stuck to me

but did not stay

It will return

of this I’m sure

Because was is was

it’s not a cure


Still,

keep “was” close

in your darkest hour

Because “was” is hope

and hope is power

Self Determination

“I’m tired.”

That was the note he left. A sticky note, actually. Pushed hard and pressed purposefully onto the upper-left corner of the corkboard in his home office, now spattered with brain matter and blood.

He woke that Tuesday, poured his coffee, sat on his back porch, and listened to mourning doves coo and the distant rumble of the early commute – trucks and cars, potholes and puddles. The wet hum and rattle of life.

He would miss his morning coffee, but not enough to stick around.

His kids were grown. As best he could, he’d advised them about life and how to get on in the world. So, in this regard, his “main” job was done.

He wasn’t all that unhappy or in any kind of pain, just immensely bored and intensely uninterested in the grind and pursuit, of what, he never entirely understood.

For the last several weeks, he found himself muttering, “What’s the point? Nothing changes. It’s all the same shit.”

What’s the point?

Nothing changes.

It’s all the same shit.

I suppose if one chews on those sentiments long enough, a sticky note on a corkboard and a gun in your mouth is where you end up.

He was missed dearly by his family, who stumbled numbly through life for the next two years.

For weeks after his demise, his faithful dog waited for him to come down the stairs and give a loving pat on the head. Whenever the house creaked, or the upstairs plumbing clanged, his dog would get up, walk to the stairs, and wait.

That was perhaps the saddest display of love and loyalty ever.