Eye of the Envious – Part Two
I didn’t have my first panic attack until my plane landed in Heathrow and it sunk in that I no longer had my own permanent home back in New York. The heft of the ridiculously quick decision I had made to relocate began to sit heavy upon my lungs, to the point I reached into my bag and wrapped my fingers around my small orange note book. I clenched the book and looked out the window.
I wished the plane to turn around. Just taking me back to where I started. My old and finally comfortable apartment. My comfortable job. My comfortable friend group. I wanted to delete this decision. I wanted to delete the past year and the memories and hurt. I picked up my pen and held it to the notebook’s pages. The pen touched the paper and I stopped, Yoga Dan’s warning echoing in my ears. There was no going back. No ability to delete or rewind. Not even with a magic notebook. There was only one way. Forward. I removed my bag from the overhead bin and followed the line off the plane.
I took a taxi to my new temporary apartment and spent the time flicking a rubber band firmly against my left wrist and chanting a positive mantra. My anxiety only grew and I immediately got annoyed that my cognitive behaviour tools seemed to be failing me. Damn it, a negative thought. Cancel cancel. Ugh, that doesn’t work either. Cancel cancel. I continued this cycle of negative thinking and cancelling until I ended up at my front door with a red wrist and a stomach of nerves.
I looked at the very large British key in my hand and admired its novelty. I entered my new flat with some excitement for European living. The first thing that flooded over me was the overwhelming smell of urine. It reminded me of New York which made me at ease until I realized the smell was coming from inside. The cooker had no working knobs, the bathroom had speckling only half finished on the ceiling and there was carpet. Everywhere. The “outdoor space” was a door to the kitchen that led to a strip of grass between the back of the building and a neighboring parking lot. Not exactly the image of the small brick town house with a garden and bay window set for reading that I had imagined. Flick flick. Cancel cancel. It has two rooms though.
The following two weeks were a whirlwind of confusion and rubber band snaps. Try to set up a bank account. Need proof of address. Try to sign up for utility bill to get proof of address. Need a bank account to sign up for utilities. Bring tenancy agreement to bank. Not considered proof of address even though it is a legal document stating my residency. Scream at bank. Scream at utility company. Flick flick. Cancel cancel. At least they have free healthcare here.
I went to my first doctor appointment to get the prescriptions I had been taking in the States. Within three minutes I was completely confused by the process. My blood pressure had been taken, my prescriptions half transcribed without the doctor even so much as raising his head in my direction. I looked down and noticed I was missing my ibuprofen prescription. “You forgot one,” The next three minutes were spent being yelled at by the GP stating that no one in their right mind would prescribe such a thing for menstrual cramps. I held back tears as I tried to convey the excessive and debilitating pain I had during my period. I got only half way through before the doctor rolled his eyes and muttered something about yanks. I was ushered to his office door, informing me my time was up. “We schedule appointments for ten minute intervals,” the doctor coldly stated, “I do not have enough time to explain NHS to you.” He held out a brochure. I just stood there not moving, only frustrating him further. “Don’t you have family or someone here you can talk to?” My tears went full force at the sting and I snatched the brochure from his hand and walked out. I can figure this out. Flick flick. Flick flick.
I made it home and began chain smoking out my back door. I tried the positive mantra again but it only made me feel more and more inept. I gave up and just sat on the ground outside my door. Let’s try this again. I’m going to be all right. My feelings are not always rational. I’m going to calm down. Puff, puff puff. Anxiety is not dangerous. It’s just uncomfortable. Puff puff. Right now I have some feelings I don’t like. Puff. They are really just phantoms because they are disappearing. I will be fine. Puff puff puff.
I looked over and saw a black cat approaching. Gross. I really couldn’t win this day. Cancel cancel. Oh god, it looks like it’s coming right at me. The cat cautiously came closer and looked me in the eye. He was all black like he was covered in soot. He had a little bit of leaf stuck in his fur and it seemed to scream out to me that this creature also had it hard.
Ok, ok, you’re a little cute. It was all the encouragement he needed. Before I had finished putting my cigarette out he had leaped in my lap and burrowed himself in my legs. I hate cats. Flick. I looked down at his scraggly body and before I could stop it, my hand went to his belly and rubbed a bit. He purred and burrowed further. He won. I kept petting. We sat there together and let ourselves be comforted for the moment.
previous: Eye of the Envious – Part One
more by ANNA KOWALCZUK
photograph by Piotr Gaertig