Kübler-Ross Knuckle Tattoo

Sure we sink into the depression, the low tide surging to riptide and pulling us out and away with the poets. But it has to be deeper than that.

Kübler-Ross Knuckle Tattoo
Photo by Alina Kacharho / Unsplash

by Mason Cashman

I've been watching video tours of yachts again and can't quite tell why. Maybe I want to ignore being pissed off at the state of the job market, bask in the heinous glory of life-extracting extravagance from my basement apartment at 3am. Maybe I'm worried that my meds keep getting more expensive so I'm taking my Trazodone less than I should. Maybe I just want to find a direction to point the blame. I'll hock my spit right there, thank you, at the megamillion dollar floating Italian villas moored in Monaco, Croatia, Crete, Tunis, Naples, Ibiza.

Ibiza, of all places, where I had my first taste of finally standing for myself. After living in Europe on a scholarship for that exchange program approaching four years ago, I'm still lying through my teeth to friends in Berlin that I'll get back there to see them soon, I promise. Berlin gave me the first time I realized what cracking inside could feel like, wanting to bloody my knuckles on his Canadian prettyboy jaw even though I found him already blacked out on the floor when I finally made it back to our rental.

Well, because.

I saw a tweet the other day pontificating how poets always land on the depression stage of grief, whereas bargaining is a far more interesting subject. But what about us scribbling down the essays? Sure we sink into the depression, the low tide surging to riptide and pulling us out and away with the poets. But it has to be deeper than that.

A month after Berlin, Ibiza gave me a venue. Scorching sun over the old-town marina, face numb and hands shaking while I shouted until my throat was raw. Light bounced at my feet from the gleaming marvels of marine engineering around us, designed to evoke an effortless elegance, an ease, life without worry. I had an audience. I snapped at him over €900 and an unapproved Airbnb. The charismatic Canadian left with my money and left me without a bed on this island for the rest of our week trapped there together. We’d already booked the same flight back. So much for stereotypes. I was broke, broken, breaking from a possessive codependent partner I couldn't find how to leave and a lying Canadian lover who kept leaving me behind.

I'd had enough. Everything is a chain reaction.

There are no clean lines between the stages of grief, anyone who's lived them knows that blur intimately. It’s the eyes losing focus on one more video as the sun starts approaching when being alone is harder than faking it. Sometimes the lines don't exist at all. For me, at least, denial often goes right to bargaining, bartering dignity for sanity. It's a messy leap over anger – I dropped running track in middle school when a hurdle attempted castration – but who is there to scream at when you're grieving the present situation and not the suitor?

Backing down is easy if you don't know how to fight. It's even easier if you're in a foreign country, in one of Spain's most expensive marinas, in the middle of the day, and/or in direct sight of the armed security guards of a $185 million superyacht.

Breaking down is easy if your partner back home sends you $800 you didn't ask for. It's even easier if your wallet is already hemorrhaging, your new friends are somehow siding with the Canadian, your guilty conscience is shrieking that you're just digging yourself deeper on both counts, and/or your mom texts you from six time zones away to say "I hope you're having fun in the sun!! [purple heart emoji] [sunshine emoji]"

I remember trying to dock the ancient pontoon boat against the wind that summer I got back, right before our family sold it. I fucked up the jump. Maine is not the Mediterranean but mooring cleats feel the same wherever you kick them. Now I can trace the scars from both.

The fifth post-interview job rejection in three weeks leaves me soaking up yacht tours bleary-eyed at 4am. Only, this time it's owned by an executive of the most recent company to tell me I'm lovely but not lovely enough for a barely livable wage in their zip code, plus health insurance. Only, this time I realize I know the marina. It's the one where I found that sometimes the stages can fall out of sequence. It's the one where I accepted that sometimes, if I watch my step, it's best to just walk away.

After eight years of therapy, you'd think I might have a better grasp of the Kübler-Ross model. The lack of sleep makes me think I should get it as a knuckle tattoo, that way next time I want to swing a fist it might mean something.

Only, then I'd have to leave off the last A.

Mason Cashman is coming to grips with being a fifth-generation townie. He's the Editor in Chief of Barnstorm Journal, is finishing his MFA in Nonfiction Creative Writing at the University of New Hampshire, and yeah is pretty sure he's met that guy once too. Voluntary digital footprint: @MasonMCashman