Seasonal Depression is Just Your Toxic Ex-Boyfriend

Image Description: A young girl in a matching purple skirt and bra rests her head on her boyfriends lap as his cigarette smoke wafts over her head. They are sitting on her bed in her room, which is adorned with Phoebe Bridgers, Mazzy Star, Slowdive, the Smiths, and Pulp Fiction posters. A red guitar sits on its stand, and a can of Peace Tea sits in the background beside Red Marlboro cigarettes. Her room is covered in shades of pink and purple, the ceiling a dark blue sky with stars.

Design by Erin Choi.

I am sipping my Peace Tea in a flimsy brown compost cup. I tilt my head back and chug and it spills all over my lap, its sickly-sweet stickiness suddenly making it look and feel like I wet myself. I take a deep breath and bring my other hand- the hand that’s holding my cigarette- to my lips for one last, long drag before letting it drop from my fingers and onto the ground where I step on it and contemplate it and wonder how I’m getting myself out of this one: this harebrained situation that leaves me drenched, 10 minutes away from my next class. I silently curse myself. My favorite pair of jeans are wet and sticky, and, truth be told, I don’t even like stupid, bland Peace Tea or nic-riddled Red Marlboro cigs; it’s been almost a year since we split and he loved Peace Tea and cigarettes. They are his, his, his just like I am still his, his, his. 

I’m sitting at a coffee shop where I’ve been staring out at the clouds that warn of rain. Thankfully, the coffee shop is far away from his usual stomping grounds, so I never run the risk of seeing him despite my subtle calls for him by drinking Peace Tea and smoking cigarettes. But, just as I’m yanking out napkins one by one, wiggling my fingers down to the very bottom because of course the table I’m sitting at is running out of napkins, I hear him call my name. Obviously, I’m imagining it- I have to be imagining it, right? This isn’t his coffee shop. I’ve done everything to avoid him. 

But it’s him. And he’s calling out my name and smiling and walking towards me.

“Oh my god! It’s you!” The words run out of my mouth before I can stop them, and he smiles down at me.

“It’s me. Oh wow. Did you wet yourself?” He says this without sincerity; I used to always spill drinks on myself. He remembers. 

“Obviously not. I was drinking stupid freaking Peace Tea.” 

“I love Peace Tea.” 

“I know.” I roll my eyes.

He smiles. “I’d love to drink it again with you. I think winter is our season, genuinely. I’ve missed you so much.” 

I am taken aback by his boldness, his upfrontness. But just like that, I am his again. I have spilled Peace Tea on my jeans and he’s called out my name, and I’m his again. 

I am happy to be back together with him. It is December, the month of retail-bought plastic happiness and blonde harpies posting on Instagram with their boyfriends opening presents with her family at Christmas and taking photos in front of the big Christmas trees they have in outdoor malls. In truth, it was never really December without him. 

I passed my finals without a hitch. Though the days are shorter now and there’s less sun and a sudden need for less-cute outfits and more shapeless sweatshirts, him being there makes everything easier. He quizzes me with flashcards I’ve made and afterwards we bundle up and watch cozy Christmas movies. For a while, everything is okay. 

He comes and sees my family on the weekend of Christmas. It feels like they don’t really acknowledge his presence again, like he never truly left. He’s the perfect guest. Like he’s there but not. Like he’s always been there, just waiting for the winter months before coming in to swoop me by and remind me that It isn’t winter without him. 

And then it’s time to go back to school, and we start the quarter together eagerly, writing down our New Year’s resolutions and goals to get straight As and go to the gym together twice a week. I feel bad because I haven’t really seen my friends in a long time but can’t they understand? He’s back! 

The first few weeks of January are always some of my favorites. They have a gleaming newness to them and I wake up each morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. I do pilates before my classes, shower early and never go to bed with wet hair anymore. I read books like they’re nothing and we watch movies and talk about them late into the night. Everything is good. I forget why we ever broke up. I forget why he was ever a problem. 

It is January 20th. I don’t remember how we got so far into the month. God, doesn’t it feel like time is moving too fast? Suddenly, I’ve only read three books when I had a goal of reading five this month and fuck, how am I going to read two more books in 10 days? I’ve been waking up so late recently; I think that’s why it feels like time is moving by so quickly. I haven’t been working out before class and I’ve been getting hungry at 2 am and he’s encouraging me to eat ice cream to silence my hungry stomach. He starts complaining about how I’ve been letting myself go, haven’t I? I haven’t been adhering to my New Year’s Resolutions. I have not lost any weight, my grades are slipping, and shit!  Do I have a midterm next week? That feels so unreal, wasn’t it just January 1st yesterday? I’m running out of time, I’m running out of time, and he’s yelling at me. 

Why don’t I have the motivation to get up? Why hasn’t my schoolwork been done? I feel myself begin to get sick, phlegm crawling up my throat and up my cheeks, swelling up my face so that soon all I feel is a quiet, throbbing, numbing sensation. I need to skip class- I’m sick? I need to rest- I need to watch TV- I can’t, can’t, can’t imagine going to class tomorrow. He tells me I’m so weak. I’m weak and I probably can’t get through January, can’t imagine February. I can’t see myself studying for another midterm. I can’t see 10 feet in front of me. He calls me weak and says I can’t do anything anymore. The sun is down, the day is wasted. 

It’s raining. He pulls me down while the sky tears open, and I feel our bodies get tugged away by the drift, by the rapids forming on the concrete and the flood warnings buzzing in our pockets. We stare at the sky together, and I think he begins to realize that our New Year’s resolutions were a lost cause anyway. I have a midterm tomorrow, I whisper to him, and he asks me what the point is. So I slept in. 

Very suddenly and all at once, it is March. The first few weeks bring sun and longer days. He convinces me to lay in bed for days at a time until I notice the sun peeking in through my closed curtains and I realize that it’s a perfect 76 degrees outside and suddenly I can’t take it any longer. I decide to break up with him, but before I can, he breaks up with me. He tells me that it was probably dumb for us to get back together again. Winter is our season, and our relationship always ends come spring. 

The sun comes up in March, and he is leaving, leaving, leaving, again. He packs up his big t-shirts that I used as pjs, the toothbrush holder he kept next to mine. He says bye to the people on my floor who became friends with him after countless late-night talks in our lounge. He says goodbye to me. His thick, brown pool of eyes stare down at me, filled with the memory of what he brought and took. I want to say something biting, something to remind him that I was glad this relationship was ending, too. Instead, all I feel is a quiet pinch in my stomach that grows like a wave the more I realize that this is the end again. He wraps his arms around me, and I think about the loneliness that comes.

That night, I eat in my dorm by myself and sip a Peace Tea, light a cigarette and hope neither of my roommates walk in. I hate cigarettes, I do. I’m also not really fond of Peace Tea. But they are his, his, his. Just like me. 

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