A story about anxious kvetching
I am visiting some friends of mine at Syracuse University.
One year ago, I was still a student here.
I dropped out of the Acting program because I had a minor mental breakdown which resulted in me losing motivation for basically everything.
I left behind friends who I promised to visit, especially to see their performances.
I also left behind the man who I have convinced myself is my soul-mate/romantic destiny/Prince.
I’ll call him Eddie.
Eddie is tall, freckled, baritone, somber, he is not very nice to me and his sex-reputation is vast.
He is also an actor at SU Drama.
My first memory of him is from the time I visited campus pre-admissions for a tour.
Eddie was attending the same tour as me.
And he looked at me one time.
Nearly three years later, I can’t stop thinking about him.
Anxious thought cycles convince me that I have really fucked up, I am meant to be with this man and I need to claim him, somehow, before I am alone forever.
I follow him on Facebook like an ocean wave follows the wind. Or, like a mental patient.
This year I have already visited campus once before and learned that he is dating a woman named Rachel who has curly hair but who is, mistakenly, not me.
I consider this fact to be a spiritually misaligned detail. He is supposed to be dating me and he managed to satisfy the superficial characteristics of my type without actually dating me.
The universe deserves order!!!
I am not delusional, I am anxious.
The key difference is, despite feeling inundated with fantasy, I know I am wrong and I hate myself for it.
For instance, I’ll spend one hour imagining Eddie and I dating long distance, he visits me in Toronto and we make snow angels in the winter, eat pie and hug on the couch but then I spend another hour after that calling myself a loser idiot and playing the classic anxiety game of “what if I am right/what if I am wrong”.
Everyone with anxiety plays “What if I am right/What if I am wrong”, more commonly known as “What if”, and if you play for long enough at a time, you can just call it “Panic”.
Facts are stupid.
I know he lives somewhere else but I can go there.
I know he has a girlfriend but clearly it was meant to be me.
I know we barely talk but that’s because he has a girlfriend.
If I focus for long enough, which I do, the entire plane ride to Syracuse, NY, I am a puddle of adrenaline with no answers but also with all the answers.
My girlfriends know that I am in love with this man. None of them like him and I can tell that they are all counting on common sense and time to teach me that I can do “better”.
But I don’t believe them.
I am 19 years old, I have never had a boyfriend, I have kissed maybe two people, I rarely even desire anyone, I live with my parents, I work an admin job in a corporate office with people much older than I am and my best/only friend is a girl who loves to put me down.
This fantasy of Eddie is all I really have to think about that isn’t existential doom.
If I am wrong about Eddie, if I learn with definitive certainty that Eddie does not love me back…what? What if?
You could say, well Rachel, then you’ll keep growing up and you’ll meet other people and maybe someone to think about who actually thinks about you too.
Sorry, no. Too anxious.
To think with mature presence of mind takes awareness and practice. In 2008 I have neither of those things. (I don’t even know I had a panic disorder until the following year).
I am in Syracuse and I have the whole day to myself because my friends are in rehearsal.
I see Eddie the night before. He hugs me and looks at me and holds my hand for a second before walking away with his girlfriend.
I know we have chemistry, I didn’t make that up.
I also know we are meant to be together and ok fine I invented that via the merry-go-round of screaming thought horses that heckle me day-in and day-out except for the one thought horses that likes to seductively whisper “Well, if he doesn’t want you, no one will”, who cheered when he held my hand for a second and looked at me like we had already been married once before and he’s sorry it didn’t work out.
In 2006, in school with Eddie, he lives in a dorm near mine. I live in an unusual dormitory, an all-girls facility that used to be a sorority house. My roommate is an acting major as well and our friends often come over to visit at our place because we have the most room.
I find myself on the front steps with Eddie. I am smoking. He is sitting there, quietly. Maybe some chit chat and then he says, “My roommate is leaving for the weekend and I was thinking of having a party in my room.”
“Oh. That sounds cool.” I don’t think it sounds cool, I think it sounds strange.
I look at him in a new way. A strange way.
In this moment, he sort of reminds me of my brother, quiet, creative and brooding on the topic of making friends. In this moment, I’m not that into him but I’ve had a wandering crush since the second I saw him on that tour. Ambivalence is in alarming because no one is making a move and there are really no stakes.
But then he says, “Would you like to have a party in my room with me?”
He looks at me. Sad smile.
We’ve been in school for a month.
I don’t know him well but I obviously know what he wants.
“Maybe,” I say and I put out my cigarette, blurting out, “See ya.”
I go inside.
I stare at my cell phone, 7 inch Nokia, ,blue, small tiny screen with block-like writing and giant grey oval buttons. I stare at it and wonder if I should text him to confirm that I really did mean “maybe”. But I don’t.
I text Eddie, “are you free after your show?”
He is performing in a matinee, which I know because I stalk him. He says, “I guess. What’s up?”
“I just wonder if I can talk to you?”
He says sure.
Freeze everything, I’m dying, he said sure.
What now, oh god, what now. OH GOD WHAT NOW what do I do and what have I done WHAT NOW
My heart thumps, in basic warning, but I ignore her. FUCK YOU, HEART.
I don’t realize she’s about to crumble.
This is it.
I haven’t told anyone what I am about to do because it will be a great surprise when he and I are in love and it’s just a work-in-progress relationship.
I am not thinking beyond the moment, the moment I see him and I tell him I love him, I can’t, it is impossible to think beyond that moment. The merry-go-round is cranked at its highest speed, the heart that operates it is on crack and pregnant and off-the-charts panicked: What have I done and what am I doing?
“Ok, so I go down there and I get there and he’s standing there and I say I ok so I go down there and he’ll come out and I’ll be standing there and he’ll be happy to see me and I’ll smile at him and so I go down there…fuck I wish I was prettier and also I’m not sure why I am doing this oh ok so I see him so I got there and I see him….”
I run down the hill to the theatre and I trash myself in my head while simultaneously planning the moment that will change my life forever.
It’s mostly the way he looks at me.
The Prince Eric Illusion is alive and winning.
For a long time, Prince Eric is my favourite Disney Prince (now I hate all of them) because when he first meets Ariel, he looks at her and he’s totally hypnotized. Time stops, music ah ah ahs, red hair flows, everything is HER.
She is powerful. He is stupid.
I want the power to be instantly hypnotic, to knock a man stupid, to just be so beautiful and awe-striking that he looks at me and I stop time for him, for just a second.
That’s how I feel when I looked at Eddie. I feel like Prince Eric. Eddie is my burly, toxic, disagreeable mermaid muse and I have made the mistake of assuming that he is the one being effected by me.
WHATEVER, KEEP RUNNING.
I am wearing a long turquoise coat and fur high-heeled boots. I am running down the hill, running because walking feels idiotic when your pulse is charging straight out of your neck. I stop to smoke a cigarette at the glass doors but I throw it on the ground almost immediately. Impatience is anxiety’s token gift to the world.
I walk into the lobby of the theatre. I hang out quietly by the piano and stare at the ground. He comes out of the stage door. Grey T-Shirt. No bag. “Hey.”
I look up. I have been visualizing this moment for at least an hour. We are going to lock eyes. We are going to know.
I see his eyes.
His eyes are confused.
i ask him to speak with me in the next room which is filled with cafe tables.
We sit across from one another.
“How was your show?”
“It was fine.”
“I love you. I wanted to tell you I love you. I just ran here and I, that’s all I wanted to say, and I just wanted you to know before I go home. I love, that’s all.”
He says nothing.
We sit there for at least three minutes. Nothing.
Nothing is happening.
The air sharpens. One or two people walk by and he says hi to them. I stare at my heel which I rolled over on the way down the hill and it is now slowly a tarting to peel off the bottom of the boot.
I look around. I left this place. It isn’t my place. I don’t belong here. Nothing is happening.
“OK SO, EVERYTHING IS GOOD WITH YOU?”
I won’t leave. I need this fail. I need it to fail so tragically that my stupid brain gets it.
He tells me he has a girlfriend.
I ask why he’s with her and he says “I don’t know, because she’s the opposite of my type.”
I say, “What’s your type?”
He says, “I don’t know, moody Canadians with tattoos on their asses?” (I have a tattoo on my ass so he is…making fun of me? Good one, guy.)
We speak very briefly about Toronto.
I walk back to my friend’s place.
I tell them the story.
They react with support.
I fly home to Toronto.
For two more years I hold Eddie in my awareness. He won’t go away, my mind won’t let it go but his example of Nothing keeps cutting my “What if” game.
He is nothing.
There is nothing.
Great relationships can come from great vulnerability, this is not one of them.
I have, by the way, interacted with Eddie a couple times since this failed dialogue and maybe I’ll tell those stories on a different day.
Tomorrow I tell you about a really humiliating expectation I had of myself regarding lingerie and Puerto Rico.
This story is part of a daily series of stories that share situations wherein I was tortured by anxiety despite the fact that nothing was happening. I hope they help you laugh at worry and maybe help you appreciate more about some of your own anxious thoughts.
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