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Daphne Merkin

A Journey Through Darkness



IT IS A SPARKLING DAY IN MID-JUNE, the sun out in full force, the sky a limpid blue. I am lying on my back on the grass, listening to the intermittent chirping of nearby birds; my eyes are closed, the better to savor the warmth on my face. As I soak up the rays I think about summers past, the squawking of seagulls on the beach and walking along the water with my daughter, picking out enticing seashells, arguing over their various merits. My mind floats away into a space where chronology doesn’t count: I am back on the beach of my adolescence, lost in a book, or talking to my old college chum Bethanie as we brave the bay water in front of her parents’ house in Connecticut, where she comes to visit every summer.


In the 20 or so minutes of “fresh air” allotted after lunch (one of four such breaks on the daily schedule), I try to forget where I am, imaging myself elsewhere than in this fenced-off concrete garden bordered by the West Side Highway on one side and Riverside Drive on the other, planted with patches of green and a few lonely flowers, my movements watched over by a more or less friendly psychiatric aide. Soggy as my brain is from being wrenched off a slew of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications in the last 10 days, I reach for a Coleridgian suspension of disbelief, ignoring the roar of traffic and summoning up the sound of breaking waves...


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The New York Times Magazine | May 6, 2009.

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