On a lazy Wednesday in late July, Goose asks Lardo if she wants to come with him while he gets a new tattoo. She follows along because she has nothing better to do, but could also stand to watch a different medium in its process.
“So what are you getting?” she asks as they park in front of the shop.
“Belated birthday gift for Kent and Perry,” Goose says.
“I don’t think that’s how gifts work."
Goose shrugs. “We like our ink.”
“Alright,” she says.
The artist is nice enough to let her sit in while she works on Goose.
“We’re only doing the line art today, right Nathan?” the artist says sternly.
“It was one time,” he grumbles.
Lardo snorts. “What he’d do?”
“Tried to convince me that I should reschedule my other appointments so I could do a six hour tat for him.”
“It’s not my fault it worked,” he argues.
“You played the sibling card, asshole,” the artist looks over at Lardo. “You’re Kent’s friend, aren’t you?”
“Yea, and you are?”
“Perry’s sister,” she nods. “I’m Magdalena, nice to meet you.”
“Larissa, and likewise—” Lardo eyes Goose. “You’re a dick.”
“Takes one to know one,” he retorts.
“He doesn’t like talking about it, but I’m his favorite sister,” Magdalena says.
“Bullshit,” Goose grumbles.
“Yea, and who is?”
“Teresa,” he says.
Magdalena laughs. “I’ll tell her that next time you try to lecture her.”
Lardo feels out of place, but they have a good conversation flowing between them. She’s fine with staying quiet as the other two chat and prep.
“So Larissa,” Magdalena says. “Per tells me you do some awesome paintings.”
She blushes. “Yea, sometimes.”
Magdalena stops him.
“No moving,” she threatens.
“Lardo has a BFA, you’ve seen her instagram, Mags.”
“That was you?”
“Yea,” she says.
Mags hums. “There’s a sketch pad behind me. Grab it.”
Lardo complies, sitting back down.
“One of my regulars wants a minimalist take on their favorite album covers. I got the first two done, see what you can do about the third,”
“Ok, and the other two—”
“Are earlier in the book, you’ll see them,” Mags says.
“You want me to copy your style?”
“Not exactly. Make it your own,” she says before putting her liner on Goose’s back.
Lardo sits there sketching for a while. Every so often she looks up from the book to watch Magdalena’s progress. Lardo gets caught up in how smooth her application is, how steady and deliberate her motions are.
She takes a step back from the book, turning it upside down to get a different perspective. Lardo makes adjustments as Magdalena cleans off Goose’s tattoo. She looks at what they’ve got so far.
“Yep,” Magdalena says proudly. “Tonto wants one for every person in the fam.”
Lardo tries counting them, noticing that they have different sizes, shapes, and even styles. They all have a distinct personality.
“Mags, show Lardo which ones hers,” Goose says.
Magdalena points to one nestled in between two larger, spikey ones. Her succulent is rounded and curves up in a way that makes it look dynamic.
“You...I’m part of the fam?”
“Of course,” Goose says as he sits up.
“You still don’t get it, do you?”
Goose shakes his head. “You’re his best friend, and you’re just like him.”
Kent, he means. Lardo frowns.
“I’m not,” she says.
Goose and Magdalena exchange an incredulous look.
“Ok fine, we have some shitty coping mechanisms in common, and maybe we were both raised as fucking brown girls in a country that demonizes everything that isn’t in one monotheistic monosexual white box,” Lardo argues.
“Preach,” Mags says as she wraps Goose’s tattoo up.
She walks out of the shop in a somewhat bad mood. She isn’t Kent. She loves Kent, but she doesn’t constantly put herself in dangerous situations, nor does she have unstable mood swings. They’re not the same people, and they handle life differently. She’s fine. She’s just fine.
“You can leave whenever, but you’re one of us now, ok?” Goose says.
“Ok,” she says to get him to stop talking.
“Also Mags said you start tomorrow.”
Lardo stares at him. “Start what?”
“Your new job as the secretary for her shop.”
“I didn’t—” It suddenly dawns on her why he invited her in the first place. “You totally set me up.”
“You liked being in there,” Goose argues. “You like art. You love painting backs. Why not paint them...permanently?”
“It’s not the—” She bites her tongue.
It was fun to sit there and work on designs. It would be nice to be able to make art everyday while getting some steady pay. Also, for as much as she loves her boys, getting away a few days per week is exactly what she needs.
“Ok, I’ll give it a shot,” she says finally
Goose smirks. “You’re welcome.”
“Thank you Nathan, my love,” she says, somewhat sarcastically.
He slows down for a stop sign, leaning over the console to kiss her on the cheek.
“You’re welcome,” he says playfully.
Lardo blushes furiously. Stupid hockey players and their affection.
She goes into Mags’ tattoo shop every day for a week or so. Ransom and Holster have been keeping themselves too occupied with sex and their Vegas bucket list to notice. Or so she thought—
“You have a job,” Holster shouts when she gets home one Thursday afternoon.
She groans as she slips off her shoes. She spent the better part of the afternoon mopping the floors while Magdalena made her listen to podcasts on tattoo styles and trends of the last seventy years.
“What are you on, Holzty?” she asks tiredly.
Holster comes running up to her, crushing her into a tight hug. Ransom trails closely behind him, also crushing her in the hug.
“Why didn’t you tell us you got a job?” Ransom demands.
“Uh, because you’ve been busy—”
“Larissa,” Ransom says
She sighs. “I don’t know if I like it yet, ok? I don’t want to get your hopes up in case it goes south fast.”
“You’ve been working there for two weeks,” Ransom points out. “Were we never supposed to find out?”
She struggles to get out of their grasp.
“I don’t know,” she says once she’s back on the floor. “I thought I’d quit by now if it wasn’t for me.”
“And…” Holster prompts.
“It’s fine,” she says.
“C’mon, Lards, you’re killing us,” he wines. “How is it? How’s your boss?”
“It’s fine,” she says. “My boss is kinda strict but she means well. Mags is—”
“Wait,” Holster says. “Perry’s sister is your boss.”
“Yea, you know her?”
Holster snaps his mouth shut. “Perry!”
Perry comes running out of the bedroom, wet and naked.
“Mags is living in Vegas and I haven’t met her yet?”
Perry sags. “Are you kidding me? I was showering. I thought this was an emergency—”
“It is!” Holster insists.
“Yea, sure, vente aquí,” they say as they wave him up. “You can finish lecturing me in the shower.”
Holster doesn’t have to be told twice. He’s scrambling up the stairs in an instant. Ransom, however, is still there and mildly annoyed, from the way he has his arms crossed.
Lardo sighs. “I’m scared.”
“Of everything changing too fast,” she admits. “Of getting my hopes up for something that’s gonna fall through in a day or a week or—”
“Or maybe, we finally found where we should settle down,” Ransom says.
Lardo closes her eyes. “I don’t know if I’m good enough to be a tattoo artist, ok?”
Ransom hugs her, and this time it’s gentle, reassuring. “You ok?”
“Yea, what do you mean?”
“I just... feel like you’ve been down on yourself a lot lately,” he says.
Lardo shrugs. “I... maybe.”
Ransom kisses her forehead. “Wanna go back to bed?”
“Fuck yea,” she murmurs.
She lets him take her upstairs to the master bedroom. Perry and Holster give them some space once they’re done with their shower. She swears she sees Ransom waving them away at some point. She asks if he could grab her some water and put on the TV. She doesn’t really pay attention to when these things happen, but they do.
She zones out in his arms and feels better than she has in a while. It’s been a long few years. Lardo needs a nap. That’s what she tells herself.
Just a nap.
She wakes up the next morning even more exhausted than before, but she pulls herself out of bed, because her shift starts in an hour. She puts the water on as cold as possible to wake her out of her mood. It doesn’t, so she puts on eyeshadow to help. That doesn’t do much either.
Breakfast helps a little, but not enough.
Lardo goes to work, puts a smile on and greets every customer well. She goes home and has dinner with her boys. Every night there’s a slightly different group of people. But it’s ok, they’re a family and they’ve got her back.
She goes to sleep that night hoping the next morning it’ll be easier to get up.
It’s halfway through November when Lardo feels a moment of clarity. The weather doesn’t change a whole lot in Nevada, so the season change isn’t much of a damper on the sunny weather. Lardo’s working on a flash page. It’s all based on beautiful women’s faces that transform into the physical manifestation of constellations. She’s working on Ursa Minor, but it isn’t coming out right.
Nothing’s been coming out right lately. Days blur together, and she just keeps muddling through. She should be happy, she thinks. She’s living her best life. Sometimes, she is happy. In the quiet moments when she can breathe. But those moments are few and far between.
She’s in a rut. She knows she has a great life and couldn’t ask for more. Yet every fucking day is like an uphill battle with herself. It’ll fade eventually.
Lardos turns 28. It’s supposed to be a happy day. Everyone showed up for her and Ransom’s joint birthday. She put a lot of man hours into throwing him a party worthy of his awesomeness. She can’t remember a lot of it.
She sees the smile on his face when he says thanks to her. It should be the best birthday so far. Somehow, it isn’t.
The days get longer and so does her rut. It’ll pass. It always does. Eventually.
She’s in Toronto helping Ife pick out wedding dresses. Ransom’s mom and Dami cry when Ife comes out in the fourth dress. Lardo smiles for them. She hugs Ife tightly, whispering, “You’re going to be the most beautiful bride ever.”
She takes lots of pictures at the engagement party, because she’s sure she won’t remember much in even a week. Happy thoughts don’t linger around her anymore. Life moves on, even without Lardo.
It’s November. Lardo’s working on her portfolio between working with practice clients. Mags won’t let her use a machine on anyone yet. That’s probably for the best. Someone says something behind her. She’s pulled out of her musings by a tapping on her shoulder.
“Lards, go home,” Mags says.
“What?” she says. “Why?”
“You’re done for the day.”
“Did, uh,” she clears her throat. “Did I do something wrong?”
She watches Magdalena sigh. “C’mere,” she opens her arms.
Lardo goes along with it, but when she puts herself in Mags’ arms everything feels better. She isn’t on autopilot for a moment. She can breathe.
“You gotta go home and take a break, ok?” Mags says.
“Lardo, I know your hard days, and this is just—this is bad ok?”
“Every day’s hard, Mags,”
She shakes her head. “We gotta fix that, ok? That’s not how things are supposed to be.”
Lardo nods. It really isn’t registering with her brain. But then again, she feels numb more often than not anymore—
“Justin’s here to pick you up,” Mags says.
Lardo doesn’t register that well either. But she sees Justin and follows him to the car. He holds her hand as they drive in the car, she expects him to take her home. But suddenly, they’re pulling up to a building she hasn’t seen before.
“What are we doing here?” she asks
“I made an appointment with a psycho-therapist,” Ransom says.
“...for me,” she concludes.
“Yea,” he says.
“No, really. Why Justin?”
He doesn’t say anything.
“What have I fucked up so royally that you’re sending me to a therapist like a fucking child?”
“It’s not like that,” he whispers.
“You haven’t been you in months,” he says. “You don’t talk, you don’t hang out with us. You barely move unless it’s to go to work or some hockey thing.” He licks his lips. “I miss you, ok?”
“I’m right here,” she insists.
“No, not like this,” he takes a deep breath. “I’m not mad. I’m just worried, ok.”
She tries looking him in the eye, but she feels terrible. Ashamed, and guilty for not being ok. But what does ok even mean anymore?
“I’m sorry,” she mutters. “I didn’t realize... I wasn’t thinking.”
Ransom hugs her tightly. She clings onto him, taking a deep breath. She tries again even though it feels useless.
“I won’t make you go in,” he says. “But it hurts, ok? Seeing you force yourself to do anything.”
“I know, it isn’t about me or Holtzy,” he amends. “But we love you ok? I guess I’m just worried that one day this won’t be enough and…”
You’ll leave us , he doesn’t say. He doesn’t have to say it. She swallows, slipping out of the car.
“What’s the suite number?” she asks.
The office is drowning in aromatherapy, and Lardo tries to take it as a positive sign. She sits in a plush seat and pretends to look through her phone so how much she’s internally screaming doesn’t show. It’s not the worst thing to go to therapy. It’s not even bad. But Lardo’s fine, or at least, she thought it wasn’t a big deal to trudge through life one day at a time.
After the secretary has her fill out a few forms, she’s called back by a young therapist. Their short hair and piercings makes her feel a little more at ease. They look queer, so maybe she won’t have to lie out of her ass to talk. She doesn’t catch their name, which makes her feel shitty, but not enough to embarrass herself by asking again.
“So why are you here?” they ask.
“My boss told me to go home, and then my boyfriend told me I haven’t been myself, so he made an appointment and dropped me off,” she admits.
They write some things down. “And do you want to be here?”
She thinks about it for a minute. Ultimately deciding, “I guess I thought people like me don’t get to be ‘happy’. Happiness is just this Hallmark bullshit they sell movie tickets with. But I live in a house with a bunch of people I love…” Lardo clenches her hands, staring at her lap. “I think I’ve been unhappy for a really long time.”
“Years?” she guesses.
“And are you unhappy all the time?”
“Sometimes it’s easier,” she says.
They nod. “Ok, I’m going to ask you some questions. Could you answer rarely, sometimes, often, or all the time to each of them?”
They go through a checklist on her life and habits. It’s tedious, but also eye opening to how miserable she’s been. Especially over the last few months.
“Do you know if there’s a history of depression in your family?”
“I…” Lardo’s voice falters. “I don’t know for sure. But I think my grandma has it.”
The therapist nods. “Well you do seem to meet several of the criteria for Persistent Depressive Disorder. I know that might sound like a lot, but it’s very treatable. Do you know anything about that or what it entails?”
“I need meds, don’t I?” she says quietly.
“Medication has been clinically proven to show positive results and improved quality of life in patients,” they explain. “Everyone’s different though, and treatment is more than just a prescription. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.”
“So it’s just trial and error until life sucks less?”
“Well, that’s only part of the equation,” they say. “Most people with depression find it helpful to go to therapy for a period of time to relearn various behaviors and coping mechanisms. It’s also useful if you just need an outside perspective on things that you feel are out of control in your life. Therapy is really what you want it to be.“
Lardo nods, biting her lip.
“How long would that be for?”
“It depends on you and what goals you’d like to set,” they say. “I understand you weren’t brought here on the best circumstances. If you’d like to take a few days to think about it, you’re more than welcome to work with another one of our therapists, or I can refer somewhere else—”
“No it’s fine,” Lardo says. “I wanna give this a shot.”
The therapist nods. “Would you like to schedule something for later this week so we can discuss goals more?”
“And the meds?”
“Here,” they say pulling out a sheet. “These are the numbers of some psychiatrists in the area. The ones that are starred have received good reviews from our clients here.”
“Cool,” she murmurs.
“If it’s overwhelming, you could ask someone to help you divvy up the work,” they suggest.
The session seems to wrap up quickly after that. They make an appointment for a few days later.
“Larissa,” the therapist says before she leaves.
“Take a few days off if you can,” the therapist says. “Be kind to yourself.”
She nods reluctantly, not remembering the last time she took a day off. When she climbs back into the car, Ransom’s on the phone with Holster.
“Yea, babe, we’ll see you when we get home,” Ransom says before hanging up.
“Telling him I actually went,” she chirps.
She interrupts him with a kiss on the cheek.
“Thanks,” she whispers. “It sucks that we couldn’t talk about this before. But I know you mean well.”
Ransom turns to kiss her. When he’s done, he stays within an inch of her face.
“I am sorry for throwing you off guard,” he says. “Next time I’ll be more up-front, ok?”
“Good,” she says.
He pulls out of the parking lot.
“So what’d they say?”
“Persistent Depressive Disorder,” Lardo says.
“I have no idea what that means.”
Lardo shrugs. “I got some info, but maybe we should do some more research on our own.”
“Swawesome,” he says.
The phrase makes her feel twenty-one again. It makes her feel lighter. The ride home is mostly quiet as she texts Mags asking for the next few days off. She texts Lardo back with a prompt, “Of course, mi reina.”
Holster’s making dinner when they get back. She had no idea there wasn’t a game that night, but at this point she’s resigned to relearning what’s going on in her own life.
“Honey, I’m crazy,” she shouts as they enter the kitchen.
“That makes all of us,” Kent says from the living.
“Ignore him,” Nathan shouts. “Welcome to the club.”
Lardo snorts. “Thanks.”
She looks over at Ransom, who’s still looking at her like she might break. Lardo hugs him tightly.
“I’ll be ok,” she whispers.
He clutches her back so tightly that they barely notice when everyone else in the house squishes them into a group hug. When they break apart, Nathan gives her a playful nudge.
“We got your back,” he reminds her.
“Yea you do,” she says sincerely.
They don’t force her to answer a lot of questions beyond how therapy was and if she needs help finding a psychiatrist. Lardo appreciates that room to breathe. She doesn’t think she could handle so many people breathing down her neck at once to make sure she gets “better.”
Then again, they get it better than most people do.
Kent crushes her in a hug for at least half the night before she begs him off to make a call. Ransom and Holster exchange a glance as she excuses herself. They don’t stop her, because they know better. It’s a call she has to make.
The moon is out as she pads onto the patio. The pool looks comfortable and almost warm, so she takes off her socks and sticks her feet in. She shivers slightly as she sighs. She forgot how much she loves pools. She stares down at her phone longingly.
Maybe her life wasn’t always miserable.
Lardo dials a number she hasn’t used in over a year. The phone rings as her stomach bottoms out. She wonders if it’s even worth saying at this point.
Someone picks up on the third ring.
“Hey,” Lardo says automatically. “Look, I know it’s been forever but uh... I found out I have like depression today? And it made me realize that maybe my life wasn’t always shit. I mean... it felt like shit, but it wasn’t always your fault.”
She takes a shaky breath.
“Fuck, I’m sorry if I hurt you,” she keeps talking before she loses her nerve. “Rans only got me to a therapist by tricking me. And you’re so... good at listening when I say no. That must’ve been hard.”
“Yep,” a somewhat unfamiliar voice says. It’s higher pitched than she remembers. “It fucking sucked, Lards.”
“Shits?” Lardo says.
“Yea beautiful?” Shitty says.
Something slips down her cheek. “I’m sorry I pushed you away. I’m sorry I left without telling you. You must’ve been worried.”
She hears something like a sob mixed with a laugh.
“Fuck,” Lardo whispers, wiping her face again. “I’m really fucked up.”
“Yea,” Shitty says. “Me too.”