April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
–T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”
We can’t remember the last time poetry bubbled up from the dark, mossy pool of our mind. But there it was, last Thursday night as we stood under a scaffolding across the street from a bar, taking refuge from the rain and listening to a friend.
That afternoon, he said, he had narrowly avoided breakdown. He said it was strange that a mere increase of pressure at his temp job— a job he cares nothing about, and is only a way to pay the bills until he sells a screenplay – would bring him down so low and quivering-like. Especially as Hollywood bigwigs were ballyhooing for a meeting about his latest script. Also, he was in love! He should be flying high.
“I’m telling you, it’s March, man,” he said. “This week, it hit me. The weather sucks, everyone’s scared about losing their jobs. March always screws with me.”
“April is the cruelest month,” we thought soberly and somberly and a bit schoolmarmishly. Then we immediately wanted to slug ourselves. We resisted, out of concern that such a display would drive our fragile friend over the brink.
The day before, we had met another friend for lunch at the Brook Club on East 54th Street. There, we came face to face with the white-haired gentlemen with the eye patch. We’d first come upon him in December, as he was doing a little one-eyed reading in the library. Again, he raised his eyebrow with the same slow deliberation. Then we knobbed a few hobs with a more animated fellow who had been a Marine major general in the Korean War. He was very hot on the topic of the Countess Marie Douglas-David, who’s suing his pal, United Technologies big shot George David. The major general thundered that New York Post gossip columnist Andrea Peyser had got it all wrong, and earlier in the day he’d called her up to tell her as much! The gentleman with the eye patch piped up and said Barack Obama’s address earlier that week was fabulous. The major general said he thought the speech reeked of communism and that clearly Obama was a socialist and a none-too-bright one at that. Recession or no, the WASP geezer set seemed intact.
Later that day, we heard the news that a young woman who had worked in fashion lost her job and boyfriend and jumped in front of a train. We plugged “subway suicide” into Google and discovered that two people had leapt to their deaths on Monday, one of them at the Borough Hall station.
Back to our drenched scaffolding friend. He called to say his girlfriend, who works in the art business, had had a hellacious day herself, and spent much of the evening consoling a friend who was also freaking out.
“I feel like it’s everywhere,” he said, “The week of the March Meltdowns.”
April has come early this year, we thought.
We were reminded of the nervous look in the eyes of a colleague we’d run into at a bar this week. We later IM’ed him to check in vis-à-vis how his March was going: “OMG!” He said when he was leaving the office that day, he had announced to the clump of strangers on the elevator that he was feeling like a crazy person. He’d only stayed for one beer at the bar.
When he got home, his roommate offered him a Manhattan, his favorite drink. After two sips, he gave it up.
Thus please consider: The week of March the 23rd was in fact the week of the meltdown, the week when people stopped talking about the recession and started living it, internally. Six months of chatter turned into one very bad week of torment.
As we climb into the bathtub to recover, please feel free to share your story of your week of March 23 week with us below.