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”

I don’t have a good feeling about any of this

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The fiscal cliff, the debt, the high unemployment, the low testosterone, the unrest, the religious fanaticism, the cost of a higher education, my inability to focus, the never-ending deadlines, the gridlock in government, my dog’s lymphoma, my weight gain, my memory loss, my crow’s feet, my achy back and my fluttery heart. It’s hard to be hopeful. Sure it’s always darkest before the dawn, but it just seems like it’s been dark for a long fucking time. Where’s the dawn already?