Civil Wars Have No Winners


The first time you meet Greg is in passing—
he gives you a slight nod 
as you bustle off to school 
or work 
or whatever important place to which you’re always going. 
You feel your chest crunch,
but brush it off because all you remember of him is his 
black hair flopping over his green eyes,
and how can something this small flip your mood entirely? 
You don’t let this happen.
There’s a lot of work to get done
And little to no time to do it. 
You have to grind, grind, grind. 
    
The next time you meet Greg,
you’re at a coffee shop 
shoveling through stacks of work
and aching for another espresso shot. 
You get out of your tiny safe corner to order a lifeline,
but little do you know you will meet with your dead end. 
You order, Greg replies. 
All you remember is his silk voice merging with yours,
the slight throb in the back of your head. 
You take a refreshing sip of your coffee 
and move on,
because the work isn’t going to do itself, is it? 

You meet Greg again as you’re laying in bed, 
waiting for sleep to anchor your eyelids. 
First you hear his silk voice singing you lullabies, 
then you feel his slim fingers running through your hair 
as if to sooth you. 
But your head pounds,
your chest is tighter than ever,
and what’s worse is that you have the uncomfortable urge 
to cry. 

You give Greg a disguise, you call him Stress. 
You dress him in clothes that barely fit his body. 
His shirt is all the work you need to get done, 
his pants are a reminder that you need to work out,
and the belt around his waist is the pressure of pleasing society.
But, you can deal with all of this—
all of these tangible, technical problems. 
You decide that tomorrow you’ll get rid of him. 
You will do all of your work,
you will hit the gym twice,
and then you will be Perfect
With a capital P.

And you do all of this,
thoroughly, 
completely. 
Day after day,
you wake before your alarm.
For a couple of weeks, you are distracted,
you do not notice his hyena laugh. 
But Greg is there in the background, he is always there
 —in the mirror of your gym, 
making you coffee (no milk, no sugar, just black black black), 
mocking your yoga poses, 
singing lullabies as you fall asleep.
He is there, 
he is everywhere, 
but you are too busy to notice. 
You bustle in and out, 
always in a rush to do this, 
to do that, 
to do everything. 
You don’t give yourself a second to breathe—
if you have a second alone,
you might just notice him, 
and then you might just
cry. 

Soon, you forget how to breathe. 
You notice yourself trying to catch your breath
in the dip of a conversation.
You push, 
you grind, 
you work and work and work, 
you let breathing turn from a necessity to a luxury, 
your lungs collapse.

You crash into bed after that busy day 
and set your alarm for 6 A.M. the next morning,
gulp down melatonin, 
turn off all the lights,
and close your eyes 
But daylight comes,
your alarm snoozes,
your pillow is just so so soft, 
and you just can’t get out of bed today.
Greg is back.
He is giving you CPR 
—his breath is yours again.

His disguise starts to fall apart as the days pass— 
it’s harder for you to get out of bed, 
do work,
be inspired, 
be alive. 
Greg sits on your chest 
so you can’t get up,
and then he whispers, 
everything you do is wrong,
you lazy, 
selfish 
fool. 

He says you must pay him back for saving your life, 
for teaching you how to breathe again. 

First, he asks you for small things. 
He asks you to make the AC colder,
to take out all the blankets, 
curl up in bed with him and take a long, long nap.
You wake up four hours later.
He’s full of energy,
jumping up and down on your bed. 
He says he’s hungry,
peels you out of bed,
pushes you out the door. 
You stand in front of the coffee shop in your pajamas
and fluffy slippers,
swallow the dumbbells in your throat. 
He asks for everything your money can buy—
coffee and muffins and pancakes and waffles
and Nutella, don’t forget the Nutella. 
The food comes,
and he takes over your body, 
inhales the hash browns in front of you,
then licks off the plate to make sure your stomach aches
until you’ve given yourself a ketchup makeover. 
You get up to clean up his mess, 
go to the bathroom, 
wash your hands, 
unzip your pants
to his whisper:
fat.

You pray he will stop asking for things, 
You pray he will go away. 
You say tomorrow will be better,
tomorrow will be better.
You lie to yourself.
But soon he asks 
for things with no premise.
Soon, he begs you
to quit studying,
cuddle with him in bed,
build walls between your friends,
drink till you can no longer think, 
give your love away to strangers
that fill the loneliness in your chest,
destroy yourself until you can no longer feel.

Soon, he gets bored of not feeling,
pushes you to self-destruct
as red waterfalls
splash down your wrist. 
Soon, he asks
why are you still 
alive?

At one point, you can’t take it anymore. 
You ask for help. 
The psychiatrist gives you a yellow pill 
that you can never swallow right.
You cross your fingers 
that you will be Happy
with a capital H.

Now, you introduce him as your depression, Greg.
He is a chameleon. 
To some, he is transparent, 
they say all you need is exercise 
and a healthy meal. 
Others look right at his cocky smile,
but never into his piercing eyes. 
They refuse to acknowledge his existence, 
because you are not crazy.
He is the master of disguise.
You call him the 
black sheep of your life,
the nemesis, 
the imposter,
the debbie-downer,
the wet towel, 
the party-pooper.
You call him Greg
Because 
You’re too afraid to admit
That your worst enemy 

is yourself.


By Dvita Kapadia

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