I couldn't eat anything. And my God, I was in New York City. My aunt and cousin had already devoured a pizza from across the street, and we were at a weird diner where people wouldn't stop singing at us and I had in front of me, I kid you not, a salad full of goat cheese. Goat cheese is probably my favorite thing in the world. But I squished it between the tines of my fork and shared a sad look with my mother. The waiters were singing "Proud Mary", and I've had it stuck in my head ever since.
But I never saw the good side of the city / Till I hitched a ride on a riverboat queen
Not my first time in New York. No, friends, I got to the point there a couple years ago where the tourists would ask me for directions in the subway, and I'd give them the right answer (usually) (okay it was only three months but still).
But still I lived in Brooklyn and as much as I can swear I'm not a hipster or a yuppie or a yupster or a hippie, I went to Times Square about once during that whole gig and spent the entire time annoyed at people for running into me and anxious that a bomb might go off at any second. The nice part about living near Detroit - nobody wants to bomb Detroit. They just don't.
This time though my family members wanted the experience, kind of the same way the other Midwesterners we encountered everywhere we went wanted the experience. ("Hey, it's another dude in a Go Blue shirt!") So that's how we ended up in a homey Hampton Inn close enough to Times Square that the neon could still burn our eyes at night, and that's how when I started to experience this city lover's ironic urban anxiety.
It wasn't the city itself that made me stop eating. This was already in the works. I've got an anxiety disorder worth writing (or frantically calling at 2am) home about, and the oh so seductive cycle of perceived doom had already begun in my head. I couldn't eat anything, I wouldn't be able to eat anything in the car because I get carsick, and I would ruin the entire trip to the beautiful city of New York by not eating any of the many delicious things that it would try to feed me.
And...that's sort of precisely what happened. My mind is a powerful thing, in exactly the worst kind of way.
So I'm trying to force down crackers while wildly signaling to my mother to not run down pedestrians because yes, we area also driving our little Michigan license-plated Focus down 8th Avenue (this is because I'm also afraid of flying and my mother humors me). And later I'm watching a green-painted lady suspended by wires from the flyspace and belting at unimaginable frequencies, and I'm painstakingly sneaking tiny bits of granola bar between my teeth. And when my family decides that the real novelty would be dining at the tallest Olive Garden imaginable (how does that suburban palace of parmesan deserve three stories?), I pick at spaghetti under the condescending eye of a waiter who wants a better tip, feeling more than a little boxed in by the crowds and the lights and the distance from home and the big Appalachians between us.
When I get back home I know the drill. Miserable and way too skinny for days, until I can make the appointments and get the medication that stops the downward spiral of thoughts and lets me feel like a normal human. But I'm sad that I didn't catch this current onslaught of panic before my return to that city, that city that I once conquered alone, in which I almost got mugged but didn't, in which I swam in the ocean and made friends from scratch, in which I ate the most exquisite things and felt like I could go anywhere from there.
Panic sometimes gets the best of that. But the city has remarkable resilience, and I think it will let me try again.