4pm at Café Septième
I moved to Seattle when you’re supposed to, in the summertime. It was glorious, but right around that weekend in October when the clocks get turned back I started to feel the doom settle in. I’d always had seasonal depression and I didn’t know how the fuck I was going to make it through the winter in the darkest place I’d ever lived. But Lisa told me she had a secret trick.
The first Monday after Daylight Savings, she had me meet her at this beautiful bistro bar she liked. I had to leave work early because she insisted that we get there at 4pm. I got off the bus in Capitol Hill and walked along Broadway just as a brilliant patch of sun filtered through the clouds. I wished I could bottle it and save it for later, which made me kind of miffed that she was having us meet indoors while it was so pretty out.
We sat down at a chipped glass table amidst fin de siècle posters, twinkling pendant lights and Lillet bottles with little flowers in them. She introduced me to a precious cocktail I’d never tried – blueberry tea – and we lavishly drank one after the other. It was a cozy evening and when finally we were too drunk and too broke to keep going we rolled a cigarette, bundled up into our six or seven layers of sweaters, and stood up to leave.
Out front she lit my cigarette, or I hers, and we made it about a block down the road before I noticed how dark and freezing it was outside. That’s when I remembered.
“Wait, weren’t you supposed to tell me some trick – something about how to stave off winter depression?” I asked.
She had a tiny, trepidatious smile on her face. “We just did it,” she replied.
“What, hanging out and getting drunk?” I asked, slightly disappointed.
“No,” she said. “The trick is you have to go inside before it gets dark. That way you don’t see the sun set. Watching the sun go down at four thirty is depressing. But if you’re inside by the time you notice it’s dark, you won’t care because you’re already busy doing something else.”
That little piece of wisdom is something I’ve kept coming back to. I have a tendency to try to out-think things, to rely on thought-trickery and force of will to make problems go away. What’s far more reliable, though, isn’t thinking, it’s doing. It’s active. Even if all you’re doing is sitting in a cafe actively ignoring the darkness that’s to come.
Melissa Mesku is a writer and editor in New York City.
I once found someone's half-finished Paris travel diary in a Berkeley phone booth. I was so enchanted by it that I booked my first flight abroad to pick up where the author left off. It happened to get stolen before I even got off the metro. Maybe it lives on.