I remember that feeling of calm, sunny warm early evening that came with distant beatings of pans in the restaurant of the girl’s hostel, the murmer of voices and muffled laughter behind closed doors, the smell of semi-artfully fried dinners, that unjaded warmth and coolness mixed with a kind of innocence leftover from highschool that the girls exuded. They were still boy crazy, into the crowd, they still had dreams and lives full of malls and crushes and cute guys and clothes, and silly giggling into the night. There was something so warm about her face, her darker Indian features outlined by her long glossy hair. Or there was something so joyous in her exceptional obsession with coloured lenses and eye makeup. Or her wanting a boyfriend. None of them were particularly bad, yet they broke the rules of that place- we all did really, it had too many rules that were way too hard to follow.
All of those- the hope, the happy light-heartedness, the perfect makeup, hair and clothes- contrasted so much with the horrible inner storm that kept hitting me inside- it was not my storm, it was an outsider, in a way, yet it was me, and it kept lashing out with tendrils made of pieces of me. It was only for awhile that I managed to keep up the facade of normal- that I wasn’t, not at all, began spilling over into my sudden grimaces and twists of mouth and body, into repeating movement again and again, walking through that door again, washing my hands again, picking up that tissue again, lying down, getting up, lying down, again and again with increasingly obvious agitation, my wrinkled food-stained clothes, untied scrunched shoes, and ever wilder hair. It was undescribable pain, because no one had ever described it to me before. In those moments, reality and the truth seemed to heart-wrenchingly clear. It brought an honesty to my life, I was able to live so honestly, with everything I thought and did and said, coming from the clearest places, the least clouded voice in me. Every piece of intense intrusive thought somehow made me more open to that deeper place, where only the spirit matters. It wasn’t that those thoughts were rationally horrifying, they were more my silly fears, exacerbated a thousand times and forced to turn against me. If you pick up this you definitely will go bald, if you walk through this, you’ll end up with kidney failure, if you eat this you’ll be made to be like someone you don’t like… only with an intensity and force that made it seem that it was really going to happen, I couldn’t stop it unless I undid my action- repeated it. That’s just a light simplification of something that was never, in the most intense moments, really rational, it was like my very brain had gone and rebelled against me, very little of a normal person was left under it all.
I only learned to put a name to it, months after I started pre-university, when it had got so bad, I couldn’t function normally, I couldn’t use the bathroom, take a shower, put on clothes, make food, brush my teeth, write, study, pick things up, and move so much of the time, my mental state was so full of this fearful alternate reality. Not that I ever lost touch with the knowledge that it wasn’t normal.. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,or OCD, was what the doctor said I had. Its ironic how little normal people understand the variations and manifestations of this psychological disorder. Most people associate it with its more obvious meaning- obsessive, compulsive behavior that is weird, but can still be understood by normal people as obsessive and compulsive. I couldn’t even study any more, not one word would go into my head, I couldn’t turn the pages, I couldn’t concentrate on any normal thing, I kept thinking thoughts and thoughts, so much of which I no longer had a choice over, disturbing painful fearful thoughts- that had a certain relative power over me. Remember fear is relative to the person, but it doesn’t make it any less.
It was in those moments that I learned to hope, to yearn so intensely for a day, that day I was sure that would come, that I would be free again.
It was in those moments when I’d hear those light idyllic love songs, likely of a K-drama, playing on a students laptop, mixing with the smell of perfumed detergent and shower products, the evening sun, and a girls voice lifted up in the lyrics, and it felt like that girl’s life was so calm, so easy, careless, free. She walked in greener places.
My friendships were not really with the lighthearted shower singers who always seemed kind of out of reach, tantalizingly so. Rather they were with intense sensitive souls who either felt things too deeply, every itty bitty little thing under scrutiny for meaning, or appreciated me doing that. They were intense and as not silly, shallow or superficial as you could possibly get, we were always talking about the most intense things we felt, the problems of the world, the things we’d do different, the things we’d do better. We would change the world and solve all of its problems, we could do it because we had that ‘specialness’ in us, that compassion, that need to live knowing we’d done something to deserve it. It was idealistic, so much so, but we were only 17. Still too young to see the deep cracks and flaws in our selves and in our friendships, still too young to appreciate the wisdom of that sunny, grass green late afternoon shower singer.
Now, more than a decade has passed. As I stand at my bedroom window, feeling intense emotion from an argument, perhaps from suppressing myself for so long-
a week at least- mind you that is my flaw- I argue too easily, rage over silly things-so don’t pity me- pity the ones who have to stand me in all my moods and delusions- and thats true for my OCD too-
a girl’s voice wafts up from the floor downstairs lifted in the lyrics of another hopelessly romantic K-song. The connected bathroom window opens slanted under my sill, and its like she’s singing in the shower- and no wonder if she is, its such a breezy green windy day today, its golden. Green gold. Its like that moment of my past, that feeling of the grass seeming greener there than here.
But is it really? Is it? I got a lot better at living my life, and that is the question that still stares at me, written invisible in the air, engraved yet floating across that picture window…