The cat has been keeping me up.
Every hour or two, she cries. Sometimes she yowls out in the hall, making me fear my roommates will be disturbed, sometimes she sits on the floor next to my bed and cries.
“Miranda, come here,” I have to say, pat the bed, she jumps up, I arrange her next to me, and she will stay. A while. This is my person. I’m fine.
Then she will jump down, move her water dish around, and yowl.
I took her to the vet, the vet said all these things were good: her heart, her lungs, her kidneys, her blood, her urine, her teeth.
Her yowls are existential.
I was elated, even through my still muddy mood mess, in week five of meds that take six weeks. The vet gave me fish oil and advised melatonin, offered something stronger if she needed it.
I don’t doubt that Miranda acts out because I am ill. It’s just what she does. She can sense every day I am wondering if I need to take something because I am panicky, or this is a small panic that will pass, if I can breathe through it, tough it out, or if ignoring it will make it flare.
How I return to having to face Manhattan being scary, the subway being scary, midtown, Bryant Park, I’ve had panic attacks so many places, my brain can pull up a lot of old scripts and wonder if we’re in the same play.
My therapist suggests this is New York, this is Manhattan. New York and Manhattan is coincidence. No, I said, I got this in Kansas City. I have panic attacks around a table at dinner with my family, my nice family who understand.
The longer I have this, the less I can get interested in the talking cure and the more I want chemicals that restore. I’m tired of thinking about my thoughts and wondering about them. They’re tiresome.
When you are sick, you’ll be sick forever, when you are well, you can’t see the wellness in yourself.
When I walked into church late, the usher said, “How far do you want to go?” He meant toward the front of the church.
“How far do you want to take me?” I said, I couldn’t stop myself. He laughed.
A lady I knew from my spiritual journaling class saw me and hugged me.
I sat in church this morning both exhausted, from trying to sleep in two-hour increments, and with rising anxiety. Would the subway back to Brooklyn bother me? What was I even doing here? What was the priest talking about?
It didn’t matter.
I heard the road to Emmaeus story, Jesus showing up all, “What’s up, guys?” and having a laugh while his buddies tell him how sad they are that he is gone forever. It’s such a funny story, such a dick move by Jesus, that it’s hard for me everyone looks so solemn as it’s read.
He’s around, he just lets you be miserable until it seems funny to him to take off his Groucho Marx glasses and be like, “It’s me! Christ!”
I just kept thinking about if I would have another panic attack, what I wanted for lunch, if I was too tired to go to my writing space and should go home instead, and what I needed to buy: vanilla yogurt, no sugar added applesauce, newspaper to throw away everything but the crossword.
Leaving church, I saw a woman giving the homeless guy who usually sits in front of the church yard a bag of cans of pop and something else. He said, “Okay…” and I was fascinated if he was going to explain why he didn’t want whatever she had given him.
I went down the street to Chipotle and the lady assembling my burrito looked behind her up at the menu, “Sofritas?”
“The vegetarian stuff. I know, I always forget what it’s called, too.”
“Sometimes I almost give people the chorizo,” she said.
“That would be a surprise for me,” I said.
There was a chalkboard behind her that said, “Smile at customers!” in English and Spanish.
These small interactions with people get me out of my endless checking in with my mood, my chattery thoughts.
Walking down into the subway, a guy with polka-dot bell bottom pants, a hoodie tied around his waist, and dirty, unlaced shoes, was going down before me, slowly. I watched him, worried. He made it down the first set of steps, then he started wandering, on the landing. I walked past him. I looked back up at him, worried.
If this was the rough end of his Saturday night, at noon on Sunday, he had had a real rough Saturday night. There were lost, skinny braids on the second set of steps.
I couldn’t focus on anything at church, which alarmed and depressed me. The hour I’m in church is usually my barest, warmest, and softest. Today the priest preached and I just kept thinking, “What?”
I sang my favorite parts and paid no attention, I thought, I just need the magic bread and wine. Just give me the magic stuff. Physical treatment (pills) and spiritual treatment (magic bread and wine), and I could be okay.
I had taken two little half-dose of my calm-down pills, one on the subway, one at the church.
Yesterday I had felt fine all day. I was well.
“She caught a mouse, like, a month ago,” I told the vet. I know he was deeply impressed. I know it.
I know he was like, Let’s remember this cat when we’re nominating cats of the year for the secret Cat Met Gala.
“If everything checks out okay, it’s probably dementia,” he said.
This week a student asked me, “Do you think I should take medication for depression?”
So I tried to answer that.
Another student said, “I have to watch two versions of the last scene of Hamlet and compare them.”
Be still my heart.
He knew the story well. I tolerated the David Tennet version, and salivated at Kenneth Branagh’s, even with his awful white-blonde dye job. The rest is silence.
Everyone in that play is fucking crazy, except Fortinbras. Go, bid the soldiers shoot.
“What was Hamlet like in the second one?” I asked.
“Playful,” my student said.
“Good word,” I said.
I’m tired of being ill. I’m grateful for two half-doses that made me feel sane again, and a cup of coffee that made me awake enough to work.
To the woman at my writing space who said, “Is it cold out?”
“It is,” I said. “But you’ll probably be okay. You have that vest.”
“But I’ll be cold here,” she said, gesturing at her heart.
“I think you’ll be okay,” I said.
Friday night a friend was in town, and we drank wine and ate good food and talked social justice and the beauties of New York City in a crowded restaurant, just the sort that you would walk past on a lonely night and say, “I wish I was eating there and talking and listening, on and on.” On a lovely night you would not see the wellness in yourself, necessarily, not even consider that perhaps a Christ-ness was there.
He gets around, though. He pops up.
Image: “The Monkey Opens the Package and Removes the Rabbit’s Head to the Great Surprise of the Animals” by Allart van Everdingen, Metropolitan Museum of Art.