Only on the Blue Line?

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So things are terrible here in Boston, and, after yesterday’s MBTA shutdown, I wasn’t expecting a swift commute home. The Red Line took forever – it wasn’t even worth trying to swim through the sea of passengers at Downtown Crossing to make my connection to the Orange. Walking the something-odd blocks to State Street, I wondered if now would be a good time to Uber. I’d calculated the fare from Harvard Square before leaving work at $21-$25, but now it was 30 minutes later and traffic would be worse.

I kept walking.

This was a mistake.

Lured into comfort by the relative emptiness at the Forest Hills-bound entrance, I was unprepared for the low-ceilinged hell that awaited me at the Blue Line. The crowd bound for Wonderland at the State Street station was like nothing I’d ever seen in real life, aside from those Phish mega-festivals back in the early aughts. After a few polite minutes spent pushing through to the opposite side of the platform, I gave up and just stood. There was nowhere to go. By the time the next train arrived, the human surge was enough to bear me to the very lips of the doors… but no room in the car.

It was approximately 4:30. I decided, still, to wait.

This was another mistake.

After an interminable span spent clicking through my Longform feed (have you READ the latest New Yorker article on psychedelic medical research? FASCINATING.), another train finally arrived. By some swift stroke of doom I found myself square between the cars, and the vector physics of MBTA-boarding ensures that, when squared between cars, there is no possible hope that you will make it through. You will remain, stymied, on the platform, again, wondering how you could possibly be so close and yet so very far away.

Waiting. The crowd was large, but jocular, and this Chinese woman behind me started chattering, at nobody in particular, about the high-speed train Guangzhou to Beijing, suggesting that if our trains in Boston were faster, and arrived with greater frequency, perhaps we might not all be waiting here in a frothing mass of subterranean torment while that homeless blind guy belts out “New York, New York” for the fifth refrain. Of course, she didn’t really SAY it like that, but she was totally right on. “America, you know, think they number one… but maybe…”

The train arrived, and this time I all but RAN through the open doors, thrown inward by the throng behind me. I turned around and saw some brown-skinned men helping the Asian lady up off the floor. “How multicultural,” I thought. “See? Things aren’t so bad, even on the Blue Line.”

A trio of white construction workers banged their coolers together as the train pulled slowly from the station.

“I totally tripped that lady, bro. Talkin’ shit about America.”

And that was the first time I ever felt unsafe on the T.


A secret confession:

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So the front door to our building hasn’t ever really shut properly. We’ve lived here for almost four years, and I can’t ever remember feeling the door slam CLOSED in that concrete way that doors are supposed to do. But that was fine, mostly, because I’m not good with locks.

Then, a few weeks ago, some guy got mugged across the street. We heard him screaming for help through our open window – B! called the cops while I flailed about, eventually bursting onto the scene, arms akimbo, yelling. The two dudes who mugged the guy had taken off up the street, and the victim seemed shaken but not really hurt. It was all of 10:30pm.

“We’re moving,” said B!, making a big scene of shutting the door behind him. “And we’re getting this thing fixed!”

I laughed.

Then, my key stopped working in the door that doesn’t close. And one day, inevitably, someone locked it while I was out at work. Luckily, I had arrived home in midafternoon and not after dusk – but that’s all it took to get me on the phone with our landlord making all types of demands.

“What is it that you need?” he asked wearily, finally returning my third voicemail.

I explained the situation, mugging and all, and the next day a locksmith was at the door. I gave him my sweetest smile and thanked him for his help, and my new key – magically! – worked just fine. It was a big relief, finally having a door that shut and a key that worked, because seriously the previous night I’d had to break in through the basement, climbing over the IKEA Wasteland of Broken Dreams that lives underneath our downstairs porch, IN HEELS NO LESS, to get to the rickety back door.

But, guys, here’s the thing.

I just realized.

My key wasn’t broken. I was just using the wrong one. For like, a couple weeks.

Hey, I SAID I wasn’t good with locks.


Quiet, now.

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This has been total hell. The whole spring-into-summer. One slow-burning, creeping infection that reinvented itself hourly. There was the hospitalization, of course, but that was just the beginning. That was only the spark.

It wasn’t like last time, this past time – again, June. There was no brandishing grand hopes of success or faith in newly devised treatments. Rather, I harbored a dreadful certainty that this scene would play itself out again and again, rippling its dark water into every corner of my life. Call it what you will, premonition or self-sabotage, but damn if it hasn’t been just like that. My entire basement is flooded, at this point – I’m draining it out a bucket at a time.

Things got really weird for a long time. It’s kind of like, “woah, what was in that brownie” and then forgetting you ever ate the brownie. You’re left unmoored, disembodied, completely immersed in a tilt-shifted world of your own making. It’s different – eerily hollow – but familiar. Then you wake up seven hours later wearing your roommate’s favorite dress, inexplicably covered with butterscotch ice cream topping.

Except that last part never happened. Not this summer, anyway.

Somehow the real-life aftershocks seem even more shattering this go-round, which is saying a lot, I suppose, since my last breakdown resulted in the end of my marriage. But it’s a true statement if there ever was one.  If I tried to list the ways this summer’s trials have screwed up my scene, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And it would probably be super depressing.

I have a new therapist who specializes in DBT, and, for better or worse, I’ve given up trying to give up Abilify. It works too well, this designer-drug miracle, and pulls me together so completely. Having a new job helped a lot, that much I will admit – having to pretend to be OK sometimes leads halfway there.

So here I am, facing up to reality and moving along. Still pretending from time to time, but mostly just analyzing the cost of the metaphorical sump pump. Getting sick was expensive.


Delusions.

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Like most people with mood disorders, I’ve always loved reading books about other people with mood disorders. More than one of them have had a bipolar protagonist. And I’ve always thought, while reading: “Huh. That kind of reminds me of… me”. This is not to say that I’m inclined to wear a tutu to the grocery store or buy spur-of-the-moment tickets to Vegas on a newly opened credit card, but the way things tend to cycle inside my head has always made me wonder.

For example.

Syracuse, NY (home of my alma mater) is not known for its fine weather, but the perpetual slate-grey skies mirrored my dysthymic mindset to such an extent that I could only conclude that the pairing was meant to be. I went to class, kept my grades up, and partied like a rockstar, but, behind the scenes, my mind was an abyss. I sought help on more than one occasion, but no amount of talk therapy seemed to lighten my load. And, at the time, I was resistant to medication. The summer before my senior year things got so bad that I had to quit my waitressing job in Boston, bow out of my prizewinning internship at an ad agency, and move back to SU, head in hands. My boyfriend and I had just recently ended our year-plus relationship, and I was terrified of all that lay in store. That first semester was a nightmare. Horrible.

Then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

I remember the moment everything turned roses – it was the screening night for my film class – and finally, to quote the great Sylvia Plath,

“All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung suspended a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air. ”

It was wondrous.

But, as we all know, the only constant in life is change. And it wasn’t long before my euphoria plunged back to black despair. The moment the switch flipped back is just as clear as the moment it flipped on, and I cried on Katsu’s shoulder, knowing that my reprieve had ended. Not knowing when, or if, it would ever begin again.

Those switches are less clear now, but I’m beginning to think that some have flipped. The first was euphoria – living alone, freewheeling out to my new boyfriend B!, even moving home bothered me less than anyone could have imagined.

The second, of course, is now. The realization that all those good times were on some spectrum of yet another mental malfunction – a symptom of this suspected disease. All the progress I thought I’d made? Nothing but hypomania triggered by my stint in the Bin.

And you know what? That really feels like shit. Seriously.


Return of the King:

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I’ve been in contact with Pusser again. For those of you who remember, he was my partner in crime from the North Dakota days, as well as my boss for many years prior. I’m talking 2002-2006 era. And then, in 2009, he fell off the map. My map, at least. Completely.

This is not about that.

This is about how I feel thinking about that project now, and the project before that now, and me now, and him now. It would have been ten years, I suppose, and it seems like a thousand lifetimes ago. But it seems like yesterday. I still remember interviewing for an internship at his old home studio – I was 22. When I was offered the job of associate producer, I thought – I somehow KNEW – that it was a decision that would change my life. I had no idea how greatly.

He has a new website now, which I am choosing not to link to just yet, and a new Twitter account, which I find deeply bizarre. It’s like staring my bad self in the mirror. It’s like I’ve pried apart some misshapen scab. I think back on who and how I was then, about what I became, and it’s so, so difficult. Not only because of how *I* was, but because of how everything was. Everything was wrong in just the right way. And everything sure did fall apart perfectly.

I used to stay up late in Fargo pulling Tarot cards for myself, and whenever a King showed up, I would always imagine it was Pusser. I haven’t made a practice of  reading cards since then, but I do wonder: what would they say tonight?


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