13 November Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. It is 2:45 am, and Eugenio is covering Johnette’s slot on Dream Duty at Ennet House. Kate Gompert, Geoffrey Day, Ken Erdedy, and Bruce Green are watching cartridges in the living room. Everyone is still recovering from Wednesday’s events outside the house. Day talks about a memory from childhood, when the certain sound of playing the violin, combined with a rattling window, would produce a massive abstract shape in his mind that somehow represented “death, decay, dissolution, cold empty black malevolent lonely voided space.”
Although Day is the only person thus far in the novel to express being triggered by playing a musical instrument, the horrible shape he describes is strongly reminiscent of Kate Gompert’s account of her depression. His description is abstract and surreal, yet also a powerful image of the horror of depression—something Wallace was very familiar with.
Day explains that the last time the shape appeared was during his sophomore year at Brown University. He was shocked that it had returned and felt sure that he would have to kill himself—anything to make the feelings the shape conjured go away. In the end, a random fellow student sat with Day for the night, saving his life. At this point Kate is listening intently. It is clear that she knows exactly what Day is talking about.
This simple and moving story is one of the more earnest moments in the novel. It shows that just sitting with someone in their time of need can be a genuinely life-saving act. It is also moving to see how transfixed Kate is by the story, perhaps wishing that she had had a friend like Day’s at various points in her own life.