October 9th 2008 - The Space in Your Heart is the Pefect Size for a Family TreeI take a deep, shaky breath and step into the classroom. “Good afternoon,” I say, but even I can see through this paper-thin, greeting formality.

Nobody reacts, so it doesn’t matter.

I organize myself for class and observe the room. There are five students, however the room is dead quiet, adding to the melancholy aura. The students resemble extras in a post-apocalyptic zombie film. Their eyes are sunken and their pale skin is a precursor to its coming mid-winter, jaundiced yellow.

I put on light music and speak to the students in a distant voice as I write on the board. “Today we’ll talk about this,” I step aside to reveal our one-word theme:


Our actual theme is going to be fashion and speculation, but I make this macabre joke to introduce that subject. How should someone dress to go to a funeral? When one of the students drops her face in her hands and another lets out a single, quiet sob, I know that my joke has fallen short.

Everyone who lives in a northern locale is familiar with the depression that comes with seasonal change. The summer is over, the leaves have fallen, the clocks are turned back and now we’re in for a long, dark winter with bare trees and soggy feet.

Two things are exacerbating the onset of my depression. First, the last two weeks of October were spectacularly beautiful; with brilliant blue skies, glorious leaves and crisp air. The beginning of November has brought a sample of the next four months—cold, dark and gray. The days are short and the nights are long.

Secondly, part of my MA thesis research is on trauma-related stress disorders. I have taken to bursting out in tears during dinner and in the shower. At night, I attach myself to the couch and watch depressing films and YouTube clips of small animals getting eaten by larger animals.

This seasonal depression has carried over to my work.

We move away from the macabre warm-up to the ostensibly cheery subject of fashion and the grammar of speculation. The students must use the language by writing short articles about people at a hypothetical fashion show.

It is soon clear that the students’ depression is affecting their work. This is most evident in the feedback from the students’ articles. Below are excerpts of their speculations about people’s fashion choices.

She must have dressed in that black hat because all of her friends were killed in a tornado.

She had that purse because she might have swallowed poison French fries and needed somewhere to puke.

She’s dressed traditionally because her mom might’ve killed her dad and his dog with a stick.

He could have worn that shirt because he hates himself.

The class ends and there’s a bright moment as we all finish for the day. “Good job today and good night to you all. I’ll see you next time. Do your homework.” And I walk out the door to embark on my trip home.  I have downloaded Dying Young to watch with my fish sticks and French fries.

I hope they’re not poison; I don’t have a purse.


  1. #1 by Captain Skroeder on November 14, 2011 - 11:24 pm

    It was 70 degrees and sunny here today…of course, you have to move to Tennessee so there’s definitely a tradeoff.

  2. #2 by Gabrielle Luongo on November 17, 2011 - 1:35 pm

    Because of the holidays, I do not find myself becoming depressed until January 2nd. New year’s hangover subsided, I now have nothing to look forward to but the grey, cold and dark three months ahead. If it were a six month winter, I would have to move. My thoughts are with you in this hard time.

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