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  • Writer's pictureMegg Kelly

The Depp of it all

Updated: May 26, 2023

Please, Mr. Jailbird rattled its song through my head as if Cry-baby was playing in real-time and my mind was a theatre, a movie conduit of sorts. It was all too easy to conjure a vision of myself standing on top of a 1950 Cadillac belting out Allison's song to Wade “Cry-baby” Walker and his teardrop tattoo. Johnny Depp's 1990 eyes playing a 1950s greaser intoxicated my senses, the particles of my daydream delighting me. Except it wasn't 1990, and it certainly wasn't the 1950s; it was 2013. I wasn't perched atop the hood of a classic car, apparently as light as feather sans stiff as a board, belting out an angsty, steamy song.

It's 2013, I reminded myself. I'm standing in the desert in a place called Hicksville, back bronzed and feet dusted with sand, bug-eyed and thrilled, looking into the eyes of Wade “Cry-baby” Walker, my high school heartthrob, my ultimate unrealistic crush, Johnny Depp.

Please, Mr. Jailbird trailed off in an echoey vibration only I could hear as I tried to shake off the sediments of my conjured scenarios. I scrubbed at my eyes, pushing away my momentary coronary of fangirl bliss I’d been hurtling through when a gruff but pleasant voice compelled me back to the present.

"Excuse me? Miss?" came a familiar voice, a much more solid reverberation than my internal fictional recitations.

"Madam?" There it was again, this time tuned with endearment.

Ichabod. Edward. Jack. Mr. Rainey. What the hell?

"Are you ok?" The voice tilted in, the man's face moving out of the cast of the late afternoon glow and into view.

"Are you real?" I blurted.

Johnny Depp, Johnny fucking Depp, cracked his frown of a smile, a twitch of the mouth as he said, "That's the depth of it all, isn't it? You never know what's real and what's bullshit." His breath smelled like mint and rum. The pirate of it all wasn’t lost on me, but his eyes. The goddamn things sparkled, a twinkle of delight and mischief glinting off the shifts and swells of sunlight.

Unbelievable. Celebrities were like mythical creatures, creatures that the ordinary people worshipped, the gods they pictured while fucking their husbands with the lights off.

Snort accompanied laughter split the space between us before I could shut it down. My natural state of mortification twitched an inward eye at the compulsion while imploring my laughter to stop meeting the out loud. I froze, my cheeks flaming with what was sure to be a horrid shade of orange cast by the desert sun, my skin already a hue of summer-drunk crimson.

But, to my elated shock, Johnny's smile didn't falter. His smooth brown eyes abashed with the desert floor before looking back up, clasping his hands behind his back as he leaned in, head tipped just so, eyes looking down the bridge of his nose, "Do you find my, uh, realness, funny, then?" His tone was taunting yet playful. His inflection danced with a thousand fiery stars fascinating their way across a midnight sky.

"No! I mean… uh… y-yes?" I was sure the fervor of my embarrassment was boiling off me in cartoon-like heat waves. Picturing it wracked my soul with another surge of chagrin.

Willing my stalled in wonderment brain to keep going, I let the I'm out in public and need to be extra aware of myself mask fall out of place. All filters were off; there was no way in hell I would let my fear of boldness, my fear of entertaining even a sliver of confidence hold me back this time. Fearing my madness was catching, I gave into my mind's eventual lucid demise and decided it was time to let unmasked me lead the way. My brain slammed into complete awkwardness; I drank from its sugared rim and said, fuck it.

"You speak in sonnets," my pitch squeaked. Dear god, what was I saying? Breathe and speak, breathe, and SPEAK, "Which," I continued, "if I'm not suddenly and direly unwell, causing me to see my very first self-mastered 21 Jump Street, Earl of Rochester, Depp-inspired mirage, then it’s way too accurate of, uh, you, to not be laughable…" was I still speaking? "Your very own language, Sonnet Le Depp, or something less lame than that…" my voice tripped over itself and trailed off as I shoved my hands deep in my pockets (I hadn't noticed I had been twisting and pulling my fingers until after shutting up), I held my breath and hoped he wouldn't walk away or, worse, tell me how much of a freak I was.

Johnny swayed back on his heels, inquisitiveness (or indifference? I couldn't tell) passed over his stature, had I offended him? I’d acted strangely, and now, of course, my poster on the ceiling inamorato starry-eyed Johnny Depp hallucination was about to evaporate. Instead, he rocked forward on his toes in a peel of laughter spilling from his upside-down smile, shoulders shaking, sunshine emitting like spun treasure from his slicked-back ponytail.

"Ah, yes, I am an expert in the lesser-known prestigious language of Sonnet le Depp. However, I must counteroffer your contravene of my, uh," (gruff Johnny pause and throat clear) "parlance." Parlance? What the hell did that mean? His amusement flitted melodically over his words (and my confusion) as he rocked back on his heels again before landing firmly on the soles of his shoes and stepping closer to me. The man before me was much too solid and alive to be my mind dancing with desert mirages.

Bending into his words, a fraction closer to me than I had realized, he breathed, "What's your name?"

I could listen to his voice forever, his tenor causing a shiver to bloom inside me.

"That’s a question, not a counteroffer.” I retorted, pleasantly thrown off by his ability to move like liquid through a conversation.

His mouth curved impishly in a sly smirk, one hand gesturing to the air as if his words were spelling themselves out in particles of light, “Yes. Because I haven’t offered it yet, and I can’t make a proper counteroffer if I don’t have the pleasure of knowing the person’s name I am proposing said counteroffer to.” He winked, offering a slight bow, and I melted.

“Quinn.” Was I not blinking?

Quinn,” he repeated, rolling the letters of my name over his tongue like it was the most curious word he had ever tasted. “Quinn, the pleasure is all mine.” He slanted his head at me in that signature Johnny way while gesturing for my hand.

My right hand lifted as if of its own accord before I could question whether or not to tell my arm to back down. Johnny’s fingers slid around my offered hand, lifting the back of my hand to his lips, eyes swooping back up at me as he did so. “Quinn, allow me to apologize for intruding,” he uttered under dark lashes and amber-flecked eyes.

I can’t lie; the feel of his hand, his mouth grazing my skin, was the single most euphoric moment of my life. It's untamed what adoration and a dream state desire for a star will do to the body. I blinked, wondering how I was still conscious and not evaporating into the desert beneath my flip-flop-clad feet at the sheer absurdity of this interaction being even remotely real.

“Now, about that counteroffer.” He was still speaking! Maybe I hadn’t lost my mind; maybe there was a little luck for me in the world. His skin glittered like Edward awkwardly bouncing around the pacific northwest for Bella and their twisted love. My eyes locked on his mouth as his lips parted.

This time, instead of his whiskey-laced romance subduing the air, Elton John's voice flowed in its place Bennie and the Jets dripping from his lips where I had expected a counteroffer to be. Bennie! Bennie! B-B-Bennie and the Jets! Confusion quickly dissolved into the sour but familiar taste of reality. Johnny’s face contorted and contracted like a marionette performing for their beloved enthusiasts. B-B-Bennie! I shoved the heels of my hands into my eyes, my skin burning with the electrical heat of desperation grappling with my lack of coping mechanisms. Please, I begged my mind. Please, please, please don’t take this away from me yet. Panic swelled through my veins, tears of shame and mourning raining their tango, a dance I knew every step to, twist and turn, and beat of its tumbling madness. Madness is catching.

“Quinn?” Tears sputtering in their tracks, I grappled with my mind over hope. The voice (please be Johnny) rang again, “Quinn.” Fuck, it wasn’t Johnny speaking; it couldn’t be. The voice was gaining in pitch, my name no longer a question. “Quinn,” it came again, firmer this time, loud enough to snap my eyes open and focus.

I was in Dr. Gilbert's converted home office, not Hicksville, desert sands nowhere to be seen. It was a small but airy room. An early summer breeze bathed the splintering edges of my daydream, replacing its deftly crafted components with fact.

“It's ok, Quinn, listen to me; this doesn’t have to be your forever. I believe in you; I believe you can live without the daydreaming.” I didn’t want to listen to her; I wanted to find my way back to the desert. I needed to hear his voice again, the glow I had created in my mind, his interest in me, a burgeoning admiration. Every so often, it was easy to slip in and out of my daydreams; other times, like now, when emotions were too heavy, my worlds would evade and deny me entrance. A reel of possible continuances might give me a small picture show, like the vivid illustrations scrolling through my mind's eye of Johnny and me swaying under a wasteland moon, tipping bottles of plum to our mouths laced in vivacity and misery.

“Quinn,” Dr. Gilbert tried again. I wished she would shut up. “I know coming down from your daydreams is rough.” I snorted in annoyance; rough didn’t even begin to describe the aftermath of my daydreams. Maladaptive daydreaming was the official term. I’d been maladaptive daydreaming since I was a kid, coping under the guise of fantasies that latched onto my fragile skin, dragging me to a hell I welcomed.

They weren’t just daydreams to me; the stages and stories I shaped, entire spheres carefully and lovingly fashioned in my mind. Tangible worlds, play acts that I couldn’t live without. They were like air to me, a seductive oxygen that my body bled and craved after, aching for their consumption.

Sitting up with sharp eyes and a quick-to-anger tongue, I spoke, “Do you daydream, Dr. Gilbert?” The question felled my lips as tears freely slid out of hiding.

Hesitation stilled her response. “Quinn…” She didn’t have to say it; I knew the answer was no.

“Then you can’t possibly know what it is like to grieve something as real to me as you are now, as formidable as you are sitting across from me in this godforsaken room breathing its stale air, face full of pity and mouth full of bullshit, but is in fact, a complete farce,” my throat constricted and bellowed an incredulous breath of air, “a lie—a daydream. You can’t possibly understand how thickly the dregs of a daydream weigh and claw at my panic. I’m constantly being dropped out of fantasies that feel so good that it feels as if someone has died when it's gone. I crash land out of false certainties without realizing I’ve been suspended from reality in the first place!” Beads of sweat sequined at my hairline, collecting under my arms and the back of my knees, my mouth drying out with the effort it took to speak clearly and truthfully.

Dr. Gilbert stood and crossed the room to where she kept a pitcher of ice water on a vintage speckled glass tray, tilting its spout and filling two glasses. Handing one to me, she sat back down, settling in across from me as she sipped her water and waited for me to signal that I was ready to engage again.

I clumsily struck after an ice cube and popped it in my mouth, teeth biting down on the frozen water hard enough to alert my senses away from the frenzied trauma, redirecting it to the shock in my teeth.

Setting the glass down on the table in front of me, forgetting to place it on one of the aqua-tiled coasters with a yellow smiley face grinning up at you from their glassy surface, I collapsed back on the couch, head falling to the cushions, gaze on the ceiling. “Madness is catching,” it felt like a whisper, hardly a decimal of sound meeting the way, and, for a moment, I thought Dr. Gilbert hadn’t heard my curious murmurings, a saying that I couldn’t pin the meaning to but caught at the edges of thoughts.

“That may be true….” she agreed, collecting what she wanted to say, “but, Quinn, everyone has a touch of madness.” She paused; the air in the room shifted, and I could tell the doctor was waiting for me to meet her gaze, “But if you can learn to catch yourself with it, you might stop drowning long enough to take a breath. You hold creativity in your hands every day. Rein it in. Shake its fucking hand. And watch what you can do.”

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