Gilda Trillim on her ‘Melancholia’

After her return from the Soviet Union, Gilda seems to have fallen into depression. Her friend Babs Lake took her on an Atlantic Cruise that sailed from Boston to Rome to try and break her from its chains. During that time her spirits lifted significantly. She was reading Moby Dick at the time and this was found folded in her hardback copy of the book. It is a fascinating peep into the things she was thinking at the time and would later inform her fiction. It is believed by most Trilliam scholars that this was written about two days into the voyage. The adventures of Trillim can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and a recent book can be found here.

Here on a hollow deck. Of a hollow ship. On a hollow ocean. Circling a hollow star. Secondary qualities without substance. Appearance without essence. Surface without depth. Is it real, or just me–falling into a slippage of self, a disfunction of my brain, twisting reality into a caricature, a line drawing of something richer I cannot tap into? But what if it’s not me? What if this deep melancholy was natural? A response to a disease of sorts. Not not something deviant or something masking realities, but rather something embracing them? With clarity. What if this depression of spirit was not a sickness of self, but of community? What if this deep detachment was a call to the community, to draw the community’s gaze to that one member who could no longer carry her self-imposed load? Like a fever. A signal to the community that something is not right within. A muster! A trumpet blast to rally around. Quick. Run to her! Grab her, hold her with your strong arms. Convince her by your quickness that she belongs. She belongs whether she can carry the load or not. Tell her, you are ours! The community calls, we will not let you go! What if in her struggles to get away she was told, you cannot go away, for you are ours. You are ours. I am unworthy, she weeps and pulls away, runs away whispering, I cannot carry the load. It is too much. But the community comforts, we will carry both you and your load. See our arms? They are strong. Come one. Come all. There! Heave ho. Shoulder her burdens. You are ours! You are ours! See! We have your weight. They are light for we are many and we can hoist them with ease. They are secure. We will not drop them. Rest your mind, for we’ve got them, we are holding all you love tight. Do not worry, we will not let them fall. They are yours and because they are yours, they are ours. Let me go, she cries. I no longer belong. Leave me alone. Leave me to be. Alone.

But we will not. We will not. We cannot. She is ours.

What if melancholia was natural? What if it is not broken brain chemistry, but broken networks of care? In a mythical time, call it the time of the caveman, call it tribal, call it the age of awareness, when we walked with others more closely, when we could read another’s mood and contribution and tune ourselves to their comportment and disposition, could we heed the call more keenly? Could we sense the community ailment with more regard? Apply what medicine was needed with more fine-tuned dosage? Granting the magic necessary to attend to the broken community, of which a despondent member was fever of community? A broken pulse beat in networks of care?

See my neighborhood now. Compartments of lonely. We dwell alone, or in island families, staring through singleton houses lined up like rows of prison cells carved from the landscape, masking and dividing what community is still not ravaged by the sharp blades of modern life. Or this metaphor. Our networks are like a spiderweb blasted with a stream from a garden hose, the shreds of the web remain, creating a semblance of the structure that once stood securely with solid moorings and tightly secured joints that could withstand what winds that blew in the night, but now under the pressure of the focused liquid beam from the water hose, it has been shred to the point that the net is a sparse and threadbare rag. We boast about our individuality and hold up our independence like a plucked bird bragging that now without the weight of all those feathers it will be able to soar higher than its fellows. And the sickness grows. For what individual can carry the weight of existence? And in a thousand lonely isolation chambers we scream for help. We wander in a depressive fog and shout for aid, waiting for a community to rescue us. Yet like fledglings whose mother has fallen from the wounding of a hunter’s shot, we peep in the deserted branches waiting for a sustaining worm that will never appear.

And so in desperation we lie on the analyst’s couch, while he plies is with pills manufactured as blunt alternatives to the arms in which we long to be carried and think it natural to return to the individual cell, or our family’s individual cell, to the hive of fragmented connections. We have become corporate. Industrial in our individuality–filled with efficiencies that poorly band-aid severed relations, and ignore the organic roots that once nurtured and healed us.

Grab her? Hold her? For she is ours? We’ve forgotten how. And the we-will-not-let-her-go is lost in a palliative of duty, casseroles, and platitudes.


  1. Darn it, Gilda, you made me cry again!

  2. I love this: What if melancholia was natural? What if it is not broken brain chemistry, but broken networks of care?
    Brings back memories and yearnings. Thank you, Gilda.

  3. “But we will not. We will not. We cannot. She is ours. ”


  4. Don’t carry it all, Gilda, don’t carry it all.

  5. Dear Gilda, I’m sorry we failed you.

  6. Ah, Gilda, how clearly you see.


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