I want to go shopping. I need to go shopping. My shoes are on and I’ve got my coat in my hand. An old man shuffles past the window.
I look into the hallway mirror. “For f**k’s sake, Yan. Get out there.” My eyes are sad; my shoulders are slumped like my anxiety has mass, hanging down my back and dragging.
So I open the door, slipping into my coat as I stride through the gate. “Confidence is looking the dragon in its eyes, Yan. It doesn’t matter that you’re scared. Everybody gets scared sometimes.”
Anxiety is not my biggest issue. My bane is a double-headed axe – cruel, intrusive thoughts and sweeping depression. If Crow is my OCD, constantly in my skies, then my anxiety is a jack-in-a-box, wound up and tense, seven days or seven seconds away from leaping out and pouncing. 123456712345671234567…
When she comes she casts a vast shadow, raking her nails down a blackboard. “The whole world is watching, Mr. Baskets. And they’re not impressed.”
I look into the hallway mirror. At those shadows under my eyes.
“I’m fine,” I whisper, more in hope than confirmation.
“No, you’re not, you’re useless,” sniggers Crow.
“I’ve done OK with the hand I’ve been dealt.” I cringe inside; how I hate those cliches.
“This is not a game of cards, Yan.”
“I know, it’s a metaphor.”
“OK, so if life’s a game of poker, you should have bluffed.”
“I bluff every day.”
“Should’ve tried harder, Yan my man!”
“But you’re a worthy opponent.”
“I cheat!” shouts Crow, and pulls out the ace of clubs from his beneath his wings. “Those that succeed in life have to be ruthless, or lucky. And you’re neither.”
Whatever I do or say, it’s never enough; Crow tells me that I’m ugly and weak and too thin and too fat and not funny and too silly and people are watching me and they know I’m useless and I know this is stupid but Crow’s claws are wringing out my nerves like a wet tea towel.
I get hot and angry, frustrated at my weakness. I often head back home before my task is over, slump into a chair and wish I was asleep in a room in a castle underground. Lock the doors and crawl into the cellar, head in my hands, listening to that jack in the box swinging on its springs – devious in the candlelight.
I recently went to a local music festival, and when I spoke with people I knew in the crowd, I saw myself from above – a crow’s-eye view – hands gesticulating, fake laughs in fits and spurts – like the crack of sniper-fire in the mountains. Did those people suspect I was burning up inside? The bead of sweat running down my cheek was a subtle clue, but they were looking right through me.
“I think he was on drugs,” I imagined them saying when I lost myself in the throng. Head looking down, constantly rethinking, avoiding eye contact, scalp itching like it was on fire. Why did I come here? Because if I didn’t do these things, what would be the point? I’ve already wasted a lifetime in bed or hiding in plain sight on the couch. “I’ve got a headache, I think I’ll stay here today.”
I got drunk at the festival, and the evening was easier to negotiate, but I often ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Crow hops into my knee, but I already know the answer before he spits his poison onto my lap.
“I could die!” I snap. “Or something could happen that would result in my death.”
Crow nods his head in agreement.
“So fuck it! Let’s go. I’ve already put in motion the first steps of my death. It’s the butterfly effect.” Every decision I make nudges me closer to my dying breath. Just sitting here on the couch is a decision in itself. The fact that I’m here and not over there is proof of a chosen path. And whichever path we choose leads to our inevitable extinction. Certain decisions may enable us to live longer, but relative to the age of the universe, it is infinitesimal. The final destination is the same for us all, it’s just how we choose to get there.
So I choose to venture outside and sweat it out some days, whereas other times I lay in bed and lose myself in a loop of thought. There are days when I force myself out, mumbling under my breath that I’m going to die anyway so it may as well be today, in the local supermarket, squeezing avocados or filling my bags at the cash register. I admit this may not seem ideal, but it does get me out of the house. It has enabled me to travel across the world, daydreaming of my demise on a dusty bus through Honduras, looking at my reflection in a dirty window, uttering ‘f**k it,’ under my breath, or slumped in the back of a crowded Toyota Hilux, scrutinised by strangers, as it grinds across the Sahara desert in the dead of night – it’s hard to explain the sickness I feel in my stomach when I’m on these trips. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.
In a thousand years we’ll all be dead, anyway, and that goes for you too, Crow.