May 24, 2016:

I was at home that year.

Because Nasty Debbie had turned me on to Dostoyevsky, and J.D. Salinger had turned me on to Kafka and Kierkegaard. After a school career avoiding books I spent a year reading all of them.

It was terribly lonely. Out of sight out of mind: my high school crowd moved on to more immediate entertainers. My university crowd were busy with co-ops and collectives. My neighborhood crowd moved away. My druggie crowd expected cash.

My true girlfriend, the one I should have chosen, believed I had rejected her and failed to contact me for several years, until the night before she left for the Air Force, and I realized then that all that time she'd wished we'd been together. My false girlfriend, the one I dated, found me annoying and clingy in my loneliness, and she had a point. After all, I was reading Kafka and Kierkegaard.

That was my first serious depression, and it had more to do with isolation and literary role models than neurochemistry.

The following year was worse. An abortive attempt at university, even more horrific than high school. Total social isolation.

But there were two tectonic shifts then which began quietly but grew to become life-altering. First, an art teacher suggested reading The Banquet Years, which taught me what the avant garde was and what it meant to live for one's principles. Then, wonderful rebellious beautiful Kelly Hickok gave me a Johnston College catalog, suggesting it was the right place for outliers like me.

After that it was a very long time before I was again alone.


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