Our house-sitting assignment in Greece is coming to an end. The cat is still alive. We have two more weeks on the island but it’s time to decide where to head next, and there are plenty of options, a million corners of the world I haven’t seen. A part of me wants a country I’ve not set foot in, to see alternative things, experience different ways, and hopefully drink cold beers with new friends. But a big part feels I should go back somewhere I’ve already visited, a place where the crow ruined my experience the first time around – and there are plenty of those.
Although the majority of my compulsions are invisible to others, either fighting or appeasing them in my head, away from prying eyes, I did at one time suffer from an absurd relationship with shadows, particularly in a reflection. Today, although niggled and prodded when I stare into a mirror or window, I can generally ignore it, but in the bad old days, when the feathered one was a much stronger force, I spent hours standing in front of bathroom mirrors or lounge windows, glaring into my own face and battling to get that perfect ‘safe’ feeling. I dread to think of the accumulated time I’ve wasted imagining a blinding white light every-time I noticed a shadow in a mirror. I stamped this particular fire out as I got older, but when I first went travelling, for no other reason than Crow is a sociopath, I began to suffer a resurgence of these nonsensical attacks. I continued to obsess over a thousand other fears, but this particular compulsion saw me miss countless buses in Thailand, insane sunrises in New Zealand, and endless days of adventure in the heart of South America.
It would go a little like this…
I would walk past a mirror, head looking down or over my shoulder because I wouldn’t want to trigger the spike. Maybe I’d glance up, or simply catch a reflection in the corner of my eye, either way, I would notice the dark shade of my eye sockets, or possibly the shadow of a lamp-lit shelf cast along a wall. The crow would hop onto my shoulder.
“Looks like a shadow on a lung,” he would say, propelling me into an evening of strange compulsions.
I’d become transfixed, stomach churning like a vat of old milk, legs as heavy as stone, searching the reflected world for unnecessary shadows. The darkly shaded hollows in my cheeks symbolised cancer, so concentrate on that blinding fake white light and what? The cure?
“Yes,” whispers the crow. “The cure for the cancer in your bones.”
Will this be the last time?
“Of course,” says Crow, sniggering no doubt, with rusty scissors on his mind.
I stand in front of the mirror, eyes fixed upon their reflection, imagining a blinding flash of pure white light. Crow blows smoke into my eyes. “That’s not white enough! Do it again! Again!” God’s light burning bright, except it’s not there, just like the cancer and the liver disease and the AIDS virus I imagine swimming in my veins – but the crow has promised me this will be the last time, and although he’s lied a million times before, maybe this promise is genuine.
But never trust your OCDemon.
I would eventually capture that evasive white light and yes, he would let me walk away. However, as I passed a mirror in the next room, he would reappear as another shadow, another snake on Medusa’s head hissing threats of terrible disease and random ways to die. I’d turn to stone again. A family member will die of AIDS, unless…
“Concentrate Yan, the blinding light will prevent this tragedy, and scare me off for good, no doubt.”
Let me guess, this will be the very last time?
“Of course,” says the crow, a razor smile and the devil in his eye. “One for the road.”
So I missed the bus to Pattani, remained in bed as the amazing sunset burst from the rolling hills of New Zealand, sat lonely in the ramshackle room in Ecuador, glaring at my reflection as my day pack sat uselessly on the bed. I spent a lot of time in foreign lands frozen in front of a mirror, apparently saving my own life and the lives of relatives as I pictured dazzling blasts of light, bright like atomic explosions, detonate across the imitated world behind me.
It’s ironic that I travelled halfway across the world to stare at myself in an empty room. Yet I smiled as I wrote that last sentence, proving to myself that I’m leaps and bounds from where I was before. A few years ago the bitter frustration at the missed opportunities would have seen me launch a mug of coffee at the wall – or my head.
I’m not sure where I’ll be next month but I know that someday I must return to a hundred and one places and look OUT of the window instead. Maybe this time catch that bus to Pattani.