Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cold Morning Bus

Something kind of hit me today….

Over the weekend, for lack of a better word, I experienced an episode. This is something that rarely happens. The last time it happened was probably 5 five years ago. This feeling is hard to put into words. The best way to describe it is a sense of dread, like wolves baying at the door, or being alone and lost in the woods. There is a sense of panic with the sense of dread and you feel short of breath and you cannot eat.

It hits hard. I have had it last only for a few seconds but sometimes it can happen for an extended amount of time. When it is over, you really do not want to do anything.

Michael and I had plans to eat an early birthday dinner to celebrate my birthday which was the day after. I forced myself to go. A counselor friend told me once that if you can still function you are okay. I forced myself to function and go to dinner with Michael.

The whole time we walked looking for a place to eat, I tried to not think about it, tried to block out the state of my mind. I hoped it would go away. Usually, it goes away.

At dinner, when the first dish arrived, I could only take a few bites and then a strange panic seized me. This panic immediately took my appetite. I tried to force down the other dishes. Michael knew something was wrong. I told him everything was delicious. He knew something was wrong.

“Maybe you don’t like Chinese food,” he guessed.

I kept eating because I never want to hurt Michael. I could not fathom hurting Michael. I forced down the egg and escargot, the gamey duck, the weed-like greens. I forced them all down. Michael is such a sweet person. I cannot hurt him.

I know that there are many people who suffer these episodes worse than I do. My mental health problems are probably slight in comparison to people who are on medication. For years, I just thought that people made it up. They made up their problems. Maybe sometimes they do but I know with my slight mental imbalance that it is not something that is made up. There is something that is off in the brain, that figment of the imagination that is a living breathing nightmare. Holly Golightly called them the mean reds I believe.

Really, all you can do, all you can ever do, is just get through it, just make it through it. I knew that by Monday, the mid-autumn holiday for the moon cake festival, I would feel a bit better. This is like getting over flu.

The next day, I did feel a bit better, a bit despondent but I tried to snap out of it. At dinner, the night before, I had not eaten much so I knew I must eat. This was a problem. I really did not want Chinese food. I just could not stomach noodles or dumplings. I just couldn’t do it. I did not want to eat McDonalds because I had eaten McDonalds on Saturday. (I limit myself to McDs once a week. In the States, of course, I never go. Here it is different. I must have comfort food once a week.) I looked through a little phone book of restaurants and came upon Subway which is new here in China. Again, I try to avoid Subway in the states but here, it was like angels calling to me.

Subway is on Maoming road which is near my movie store - Even Better than Movie World - which is across the street from Movie World. I thought I would go to Subway and then get some DVDs at Even Better than Movie World since of course it is even better then Movie World.

On the way to Subway, I did not know if I would be able to eat or not. Once I got there, not that this is an advert for Subway, I would get the cold cut combo or whatever it is called. Believe it or not – and I never thought I would say this about a Subway sandwich; the sandwich was inspired. Well, maybe not inspired but I did have no problem woofing it down. The fresh vegetable and the bread made me happy. Seriously, I might have to add Subway to my weekly routine.

After the Subway pit stop, I strolled over to Even Better than Movie World and got some movies, nothing that memorable, a futuristic take on the book of Exodus and an Australian school suicide movie.

By this time, since I had started late with my late lunch, I had to get ready for the company dinner my company planned, honoring the mid-autumn festival, sometimes known as the moon cake festival, a time when you eat moon cakes and stare at the moon - though the moon is usually not visible here in Shanghai due to clouds and smog.

Fortunately, the dinner was at a restaurant within walking distance to my apartment. I started the trek there. The weekend at this point had been a rainy one. I brought my umbrella just in case, the umbrella that I bought on the way home from Even Better than Movie World. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I had lost an umbrella the day before. Umbrellas are fleeting like a spring romance (whatever that is).

There were a few drops but not enough for the umbrella so I just swung it along by my side, unopened, as I walked.

As I got close to the restaurant, I bumped into other foreign teachers on their way to the same function. The restaurant was housed in what looked like a former estate with a gated entrance. Inside the gate were some Australian exchange students taking photos with camera phones. Their handler told them to take photos later that their hosts waited.

I followed the sea of diners into the estate. On the second floor, where the party was just starting, I was given a tag and told to fill out a nametag. I did this and stuck it on my shirt. I made my way inside. Lanny greeted me immediately.

We were selected to co-host the party. Needless to say, this was a bit of a shock. This would definitely bring me out of my ‘what it all mean’ panic-depression. Lanny gave me some rapid fire instructions as Fairry found me a suitable place to have my meal. Edgar my boss took my umbrella and hung it on a faux fireplace mantle. The suitable place where I was about to sit did not meet Lanny’s approval because it was sadly away from the action. Lanny found me a table in the middle of the room.
“Mr. Tyson, this is much better; much more suitable.”

Bill, who has changed his name to Danny, sat next to Mark, who has changed his name to Elliot, across the room. Riki, who changed his name to Leon, and Kevin were seated at my table across from me. I sat in between three Australian high school girls clustered together as one and a Chinese university student. Frank, who changed his name to Ziv but was told to change it again because ziv may or may not be Chinese for taking a crap and so he is now Paul, came in late, he immediately made his way to Danny and Elliot.

Everyone was seated. Lanny gave me my orders. I was to co-host with her. She did most of the speaking. I was to introduce the Australian diplomat in attendance. Edgar spoke before I introduced the diplomat. He did not know the diplomats name he fumbled for his card which I held. He tried to nonchalantly slip the card from me. Since he was speaking in Chinese, I was not sure what he was after. He finally just asked the diplomat his first name.

Lanny and I were in charge of games and entertainment as well. Finally, when the dishes were making there way to the tables, I told Lanny I would like to eat. She excused me but she kept on hosting.

The dishes arrived and the Australians next to me were taken aback by most of the dishes. Since I have been in China for so long now, I had forgotten how the most ordinary Chinese food seems exotic to new arrivals. They were not sure what to think of the dish of bamboo.

And, it took them a minute to open their 7UPs (which they called lemonade) because they are the old fashioned pop tops. You know the kind. The kind that were banned in America in like the 70s because people would put them in the can after they opened the cans and swallow them, cutting everything on the way down - and past the stomach - to ribbons. They had never seen anything so primitive.

We ate and then played games and then ate some more. Lanny picked out some students to play some games and then I picked out some of my students to play games. Everyone had to have partners. The game was movie charades.

I picked Kevin and then he got to pick a partner. He picked me. He did the action. I did the guessing. I am horrible at this stuff. First, he pretended to conduct an orchestra which made me think of Fantasia but then he did something that looked a bit obscene in his boy area. This was in a crowd of maybe 100 people or so. I knew no movies, or super hero blockbuster movies that involved masturbation. This was bit of an embarrassing dilemma. Finally, someone coached me.
“Harry Potter!” they yelled.
”Harry Potter!” I guessed in true myna bird fashion.

After that, the girls from my class – Jane, Leta, and Belial who is now Lillian – presented me with the most beautiful cake I have ever seen. It was a big chocolate mouse head, that is, it was big for a mouse head but small for a cake, not enough for 100 people by any means.

Edgar suggested I put a piece on each table and everyone could have a bite which was sensible. The girls helped me do this; meaning - they were the ones who cut and distributed the pieces. After the last game, Lillian presented me with my own piece of cake. I half-heartedly tried to share it with others but really, I was happy to have a piece to myself.

This morning, I really did not want to get up and come to work. I wanted to stay in bed and just sleep the day away. Really, for the most part, I am fine in the aftermath of my episode. I just do not have much energy. Nevertheless, I took the bus, the cold morning bus, to school.

I tried to force down a red bean steamed bun in the canteen. This was not easy. At my desk in the teachers’ office, I prepared for class. Edward chattered as I prepared which was fine. Finally, I made my way to class. As I was leaving the office, Sharon told me that the Secretary of the Communist Party would be sitting in on my class. This rank is as important if not more important than the principal. I told Sharon that was fine.

Once I walked into class, and saw all of their faces smiling and looking at me for encouragement and some sort of guidance, I knew I would be okay.


Blogger Johannes said...


Happy Birthday!! I too sometimes have such episodes. But then I reflect on an episode in my life where I saw this long-haired crazy-assed singer rock like never before because despite the crowd who didn't like him he had one fan! And having one fan is all it takes to truely be yourself and not let life pull you down in fear. That one fan is still a huge fan of yours!


9:52 AM  

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