It Starts With
A couple years back a group of friends had an argument about what friend they would least want to be. In the end of the argument, your humble author, won the title. Nobody wanted to be me. The reasoning was my failure take advantage of what life has to offer compared to most people. And that was when I had a decent job.
Three months ago I was laid off from that job after ten and a half years. Before I move forward, don’t feel sorry for me…it was my fault I didn’t do enough to make myself more appealing to the company that took over my company. Complacency and job security will do that to you some…scratch that: all the time! Lesson learned.
Though I’d be lying if I told you some of the moments I’ve experienced have not been pretty rough psychologically. It may have even been reflected in this blog once in a while. The ‘woe is me’ posts, and trust me, the last thing I want to be is a sad sack piece of shit that uses social media as a pity parade. After all, I’m an adult…more specifically, I’m a grown fuckin man. However, no matter which way you put it, losing a job is stressful. Especially when you enjoy not living in utter poverty.
If there’s one thing I can say about life at this moment in relation to jobs in this country my answer is depending on the industry you are in it’s either feast or famine. But I don’t want to make this a political post about how most of the country is ‘under-employed.’ And I don’t want to come off sounding like a victim even though I seriously considered writing a post about ranking the best bridges to jump off of in the Philadelphia area if you wanted to kill yourself. Because life, you see, goes on. So…in honor of living to see another year, I’m going to take this post and use it to tell a story involving a form of self-therapy somebody once showed me as a tool toward overcoming anxiety attacks. Hopefully it may help anybody that actually reads this blog. If not, well, at least it helps me.
It was her car, it was her parking spot in the heart of the city, a Center City garage and it was her adderall that had me counting the minutes on the old round clock hanging behind the cashier at the parking station. You’d think I’d be content with the downtown corner apartment over-looking City Hall. Maybe even envy my luck for finding a lady lap of luxury that comes with world renowned breathing expert: Miss BettyBetty Mulberry. All the aura, all the barstoll pageantry, all the adhd medication and I still find ways to fail at listening.
I think that smart drug we took
During our morning
Journaling is freaking us out)
Was in my head when she began to distract the poetic thought.
“Lou! Lou!!! Are you listening to me!”
“Yes. I’ll get the tip.”
BettyBetty turned and faced me as her dirty Prius pulled up behind her.
She reached into her thousand dollar leather fanny pack and grabbed five 20 dollar bills.
“Here…I don’t want people to think I’m paying for you” was what she said while handing them to me and I proceeded to give what ‘was’ the last of my money, the five dollar bill, to the valet.
We got into the car. It was silent. My mind began to wander.
Isn’t it what you wanted?
Someone dying for
A piece of your attention.
(Still silent…Iemme change that last line, imma-go-on!
A little piece of
Your attention once and a
(No, that doesn’t go together. Maybe it can be the title.)
“Pull over! Pull over!” (Whose voice is that? I’m not finished yet)
Happiness, Bar King,
Starts at four o’clock today,
BettyBetty shook my chin, “pull over in that alleyway, right there on the sidewalk.” Again, she ruined it. We haven’t even driven two blocks.
“You’re anxious, I want to teach you a lesson.”
Anxious because she can’t shut up.
“Look straight ahead!”
This better make her day.
“Now look at one object and focus on it.”
Already a fit of anger was coming on to me. Sure I get a little dizzy while I daydream but it’s nothing a little wordplay can’t fix. She should know better then to play with my head like this.
“Ok. What do you see?”
I looked up between the buildings.
“Describe one thing.”
This was irritating me. BettyBetty could tell and began to do her breathing exercises.
I hit the dashboard and screamed “busted fire escape.”
The first thing that came to my head was obviously whether or not it was title worthy. Oh it is, maybe this could be a song my brother could write music around. I was envisioning a song of love.
“It’s a song about love. That object’s a song about love.”
BettyBetty shook her head. “You can’t see a song. Describe what it looks like.”
And it was there that I responded: “There is a song in that. It’s a trick. That fire escape goes nowhere. You can’t escape, you can’t escape…”
She snapped her fingers. “That’s enough. Now describe four more. And be serious, this lesson might could save your life one day. I want physical appearance, colors, shapes.”
I marked off an American flag, a streetlight, an atm machine, and a fire hydrant. As a bonus I believed BettyBetty was certified nuts. In less than a year she was out of my life.
We both decided it was for the better. She has since went on to perfect her breathing techniques and I continue to make a poem out of everything I come into contact with. It’s a coping mechanism.
Today I’m on the road and about to make my way back in Philadelphia via the once-feared Walt Whitman Bridge. As I’m getting onto the bridge in the left lane a car to my right swerves in front of me releasing for a brief second a glimpse of what it would feel like being stuck on the bridge and having a panic attack. The inside of my hands become sweaty (gasp! a sign). I adjust my seat (a common pre-panic attack practice) put my windows down and turn up the radio. In the distance I see many cars slowing down near the middle of the bridge. Wait a second, the cars are stopping. I wasn’t even a quarter of the way up the bridge before realizing I was about to be in a traffic jam at the center of the bridge.
Chills run down my spine. Could this really be happening. This uncontrollable worry on an inescapable bridge. What if there’s a fire! Better yet, what if I have a seizure? That word escape, where is the connection? Tension builds around my chest, my arms get numb. Questions begin to pester me. The radio is fuzzy. My car sounds like it’s going to break down even though it was serviced the other day. It eventually comes to a stop right in the center of the bridge that horrifies me and I get into full blown panic mode. There is a desire so big to get off this bridge that it begins to hurt. I look over and see what looks like a ladder attached to the bridge but after giving it some thought realize it goes nowhere. It’s inescapable!
“Busted fire escape.” Did I say that? Who said that. “Now find four more things and describe them for me.” BettyBetty. Her voice. It’s coming thru my radio. My car pulls up behind the car that had cut me off. I get a good look at the driver. He looks Asian.
“Asian driver.” I pause waiting for BettyBetty’s soothing voice. The radio is staticky. “I said: Asian driver.” However I get no response from BettyBetty. “If I had to pick he looks Vietnamese or Thai.” I take a couple deep breathes. By this point I’m fixated on his car. “New Jersey license plate. Yellow like the state flag.” What’s that three, four is an easy one: “white Hyundai four door sedan.” Now time for number five.
I take a deep breathe and make my way into the right lane. Looking out of the passenger window I have a bird’s eye view of the body of water, the “Delaware River!” down below. That anxious vertigo creeps into my head. That feeling of weightlessness. Helplessness. This ailment. Panic anxiety disorder. Right now it’s not defeating me. I’m breathing in.
And I start rethinking . Busted fire escape, huh. That’s clearly a product of anxiety. Creating mind traps. I go back to that moment with BettyBetty. Go back to my state of mind that early afternoon and while stuck on the bridge named after a famous poet, I reach into the inventory of my mind. Now it’s time to finish what I started several years ago in my head during that moment.
Busted Fire Escape
Is this not what you wanted.
Someone dying for
A little piece of
Your attention once and a
Happiness, Bar King,
Starts at four o’clock today.
What? Afraid you’ll be
Late to your party.
Fear is not something to play
Around with these days.
It prevents you from
The wonderful feeling we
Show me a shackle
And I’ll trade you a busted
Fire escape. Fair?
For in a building
You can roam freely at your
Own expense, life’s pleasures
Are only a knock
Away. Just remember if
You play with fire
You’ll go down in flames
With all of your temptations.
Why do shackles get
A bad rap? Most times
They do nothing more than help
Us up after we fall down.
I ran through buildings
That caught fire, got lucky,
Made it out alive.
Nothing is worse than when
We find ourselves burning down
To the ground with it.
I see a busted
Fire escape, it hangs by a thread,
It dangles alone.
It’s old. It’s rusty. It waits.