Island Movies

Noel Nichols

Noel Nichols

I grasp at the edges of language to describe it. A state of perpetual submersion: underwater, but not yet drowning. My lungs functioning at half-capacity. I can see the sunlight refracting through waves above me. Salt stinging my eyes.

*  *  *

My medications lay unopened in the drawer under the bathroom sink. I don’t remember what they prescribed me, honestly. I never checked, knowing I wouldn’t take it unless it granted me sweet, instant gratification. The relief isn’t immediate, so I don’t bother.

It was a hurried visit to the doctor. A quick questionnaire recited with flash cards in front of my face, gauging somehow the severity of my feeling, or unfeeling. The diagnosis was no surprise. I’ve lived with this feeling for the last five years, to some degree or another. I’ve known but haven’t spoken it. To hear the phrase recited coolly, out loud to me, was a strange moment. 

I have severe clinical depression. I was diagnosed 5 months ago, and remain untreated.

*  *  *

It feels like being an island. I exist on the edges of geography and memory, alone, witnessing the sensations and grandeur of life from varying degrees of distance. I am an audience to a secondhand experience of living.

Some days my bones ache. Other days my heart feels like it may burst with the slightest display of recognition and hope. Mostly there is dull pain and sleep. 

Despite this, I go through the motions of my every day at a fairly successful rate. I was promoted at work, twice, at the peak of my misery. I can sometimes write. I read exhaustively. I keep some but not all social commitments. When I cancel due to an overwhelming desire to not be around others, I distance my friends further. I guess I can’t quite blame them. How do you politely translate:

“I’m sorry I missed your birthday. I tried on a dress for your party and felt like dying. Catch up next week?”

*  *  *

I go to the cinema. At least once, maybe twice a week when I’m completely adrift.  I go to opening nights, to matinees, to double features. I see everything, often without artful consideration.

I call them island movies. Shows to make me feel something. Something for the lonely. A dose of medicine, potent for a few hours or so. Just enough to keep the edge off.

In the dark rooms, I am comforted by the company of unknowing strangers. I watch their faces, aglow in the light of the silver screen, and take in their reactions. Eyes wide with hope during orchestral swells. Hands across each other's laps. Laughter. This is what love looks like. This is what hope looks like.

I am the quiet observer of moviegoers, dedicated to feeling the spectrum of human emotion. I think this is what the Greeks must’ve meant when they said catharsis. But perhaps not from this distance.

*  *  *

 I consume film as though it were prescribed for a life of incalculable malaise. I live for island movies. There isn’t much poetry in this, but there is healing.