We May Sink and Settle

DP158099.jpgSomeone told me even numbers of bamboo stalks are unlucky, so I bought another pot with three stalks, bringing my total to 9.  I had 3, that was good, then 6, disaster, now back to 9.

“What does that have to do with?”my coworker asked.  I was carrying my bamboo.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “Chinese numbers?”

Because obviously my life is ruled by Chinese numbers.

“You just have to be careful with it,” she said.  “It takes over.”

“You seem unhappy,” someone said.  Unhappy, and suffering, is not the same as inauthentic.  Like at the end of the “Muppet Movie,” “We did just what we set out to do.”  I set out to be a New Yorker, because I knew I was one, I am one, it fits.

Everything else has been disastrousish: deserts of loneliness, boiling panic on 7th Avenue, back on the “rescue” drugs, back on the antidepressants– not that I mind the antidepressants, so much, they did me so right before, and going off only taught me they had no ill effects, and that going off them was easy.  As long as sertraline and I fall back in love, I’ll stick with him forever.

You lose your job but have to keep doing it for months, you get bad doctor news, you sell hard your life’s work: a lot for a brain.

This time I knew to keep my eyes low, not to look up at tall buildings, of which there are, you know, a few, in Manhattan, and this time I was cool enough to walk through an Old Navy and look for t-shirts.  I was at 9.  Last time an H & M overstimulated me so bad I wanted to rip my chest open like Superman rips his suit off.  I was at 10.

When I said I wasn’t that bad, that with my first bout of anxiety I was afraid to leave the house, my therapist said, “Let’s not let it get that far this time.”  Right.

This round is much easier, as I understand the drugs, and the drugs help.  To do what I intended to do, just do it with medicine.  To not let my brain get the grooves carved that say, freak out here.

I have a brain that acts out this way.  And I don’t give in to it.  I still move to a new city, I don’t quit my stressful job, I don’t stop writing.  I get medicine.  I don’t know if therapy for this has helped me at all, but I like therapy, so I go.

I see nothing. We may sink and settle on the waves. The sea will drum in my ears. The white petals will be darkened with sea water. They will float for a moment and then sink. Rolling over the waves will shoulder me under. Everything falls in a tremendous shower, dissolving me.  – Virginia Woolf, The Waves.

I  marched in the Mermaid Parade last weekend.  Marched?  Walked with everyone, stopped and started, blew bubbles, waved ribbons around.  I painted myself blue, which was much more work than I thought it would be, four big tubes of blue, four layers of paint.  I had trouble with my face.  I am experienced with Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras always means masks.  My sister helped make my face something.  I didn’t know how to feel, there, handling the chiffon tails of my costume, the gangbusters of people, my first time at anything I am so self-conscious.  I wanted to be the sea.

Sequins are still being found on the bottoms of my roommates’ feet, and in the cat’s litter box.  For a minute I was the sea.

Image: “Ocean Swells,” Arthur B. Davies, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Parade

photo-5The Mermaid Parade was nice, the ride there was nicer.  A female “sailor” with a “mustache” was standing next to a cooler, and what would probably become a tail.  We got on the D train, and a guy asked us if anyone was going to Coney Island.  Yes, I said.  What is it like, he said, we’re visiting.  I don’t know, I said.  I think she’s going though, referring to the “sailor,” who happily talked up the parade, she was meeting her girlfriend, who would be mermaided, and the trains were all messed up, she was late, she hoped not too late, they were supposed to sign up to march at 1.

The subway on the weekends is like me on the weekends, except unpredictable.  It hardly does much, it is not clear what it is doing, though it still has a routine.

There was also, in our car, a self-appointed subway director of traffic, who told everyone that the N was running on the R track, and if they wanted the R, they should just get on this train.

For a while, he and the “sailor” chatted about how bad the trains were.

I realized the woman going for the same seat as me was really first, and I let her, she said, She needs to sit down, and someone somewhat frail-looking sat down there instead.  Of course, I said.

A woman sitting facing me looked at me and smiled broadly, we all knew many of us were on our way to the Mermaid Parade.

I watched the train as it rounded turns and could see itself, and the top of that Chinese-looking building, and the ancient painted signs that Brooklyn is still that Brooklyn, in places, especially in the south of it.  The trash along the train tracks, and the graffiti, and the half-done repairs, the 100-years-agoness and never-nowness of New York, I loved, and the shared suffering, the weekend trains that do what they feel.

I was reading Brain on Fire, the memoir about the woman who had a psychotic break because of an autoimmune problem, and the mention of EKGs reminded me that though I skipped many traumatic experiences in childhood, I happened to spend two nights keeping two different kids awake all night long, in anticipation of an EKG.  You were supposed to keep the kid up all night so that during a daytime appointment, kid would sleep and get brain waves measured.  I had made play-doh late at night, watched movie after movie and then MTV, eating candy in a ranch that overlooked the golf course.  I had known two kids with brain issues.

I tolerated the cattle march that is the spectators of the parade, finally found a spot to see, though I could really only photograph the backs of paraders.  Neptune, mermaids, jellyfish, octopi, babies, old people, modesty, pasties, bubbles.  It was longer and slower than I thought.

I went down to the beach and lay down on a sheet, on my stomach.  It was chilly.  I wore a hoodie and I put the hood up.  Sometimes the beach feels too big to me. It reminds me of the zooming agoraphobia I’ve had with panic attacks.  It doesn’t hurt, it just reminds me.

Walking back to the train, I realized I had forgotten my mother’s most important rule and not brought food with me.  I felt thin.  Nothing looked or sounded good.  I waited until my transfer, bought peanuts and Gatorade, and when I ate, I felt how hungry I was.

I went to church.  I felt a little silly wearing a mermaid t-shirt.  I like to look kind of reverent.  That’s just for me.

Our priest talked about the shooting in the church.  She was burning with the horror of it.  I hadn’t even felt it.

This happened before, me not feeling a big tragedy, when Sandy Hook happened, there had been a gun incident at my school, and the far-away gun thing just didn’t register, I was already so full of agony at what was closer.  Right now, I’m full of ending the school year, limping one more week, and job interviews, which take a lot out of you.

Like the one in South Carolina, our church has a historical connection to the abolition of slavery.  Most of our congregation is black.  I hadn’t even thought about this, honestly.  I liked Jon Stewart’s bit about this, I feel similarly, this just happens, and it doesn’t matter.  In America, freedom for individuals matters more than the health of groups.

I didn’t feel it, I don’t, yet, but our priest had special prayers, readings, there is a special service tomorrow, a vigil the bishop has asked us to go to.

One of the kids I knew, she had seizures.  We didn’t talk a lot about it.  Doctors knew best.  They would work it out.

Evil doesn’t usually surprise me.  I don’t know if that’s good.

I think the water makes me write poetry, or maybe being alone more, as I am here.  Here I’ve written more poetry than I have since I was in high school.  I thought I was done with poetry.  Water, being alone, being on the edge of the continent, one of those things.