I watched the first five seasons of Vampire Diaries over the course of a week. Something like 120 hours of bad special effects, betrayal, and outstanding hair. During this time, I neither shaved nor bathed. My apartment acquired a certain foetor unique to hoarders, cat ladies, and the heavily medicated. Stale soup. Ritz crackers and cheese whiz. If you want a bowl, you better wash one. And that pair of pants draped over the back of a chair? It’s still wearable. Smell it.
When absolutely necessary, I went to the store in my sweats to stock up on frozen pizzas. Eye contact was difficult and I used the automated check-out with my head down. I had to move quickly, since whenever I wasn’t focusing with godlike intensity on Bonnie coming into her witch powers or whether Elena was actually in love with Damon and not Stefan, I thought about death. Specifically, my own. But also everyone else’s—my mother’s from cancer, my best friend from high school behind the wheel, all the pets I’d ever owned, my neighbor Herb who hung himself.
I was depressed. I knew this. I also knew I had no control over when I might start crying. Even though I had a certain degree of objectivity about it, I could feel the tears coming on like headlights down a tunnel. I bought chips, microwavable “Mama Celeste Pizza for One” five at a time, and liter bottles of Diet Coke. Then I went directly home like any other respectable basket case.
Boys don’t cry. So I’d practice deep breathing while the pizza rotated and then get to the couch as quickly as possible. The saga of Damon and Stefan Salvatore was sweet soul medicine: brothers, vampires, suitors for the hand of Elena Gilbert, the hot-yet-down-to-earth high school sweetheart with the body of a 17-year-old cheerleader and the emotional intelligence of a 54-year-old divorced therapist. I could live with that. It’s called suspension of disbelief. I got involved. I did what a good viewer is supposed to do. I made myself receptive. And while watching, I forgot about Herb. I forgot to about death. I forgot to cry. I talked back to the characters and ate Pringles.
At that time, I was sleeping about 2-3 hours per night. But I was alright with that. If I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t dream. And not dreaming helped in any number of ways. If you had told my younger self that I’d someday be a weepy train wreck of a man, clinging to sofa cushions and a paranormal teen soap opera for sanity, I would have laughed manfully. I was tough like that.