Once upon a time, an American boy moved to China to teach english. He was happy there, and he was not often happy. He met a beautiful Chinese girl, named Shuo, and fell in love. He decided that he wanted to marry her. So, he talked to her about it. He was going to go back to America to make some money, so that he could support her, and they could start a family.
But he didn't understand love well, and he thought Shuo was too naive, to inexperienced with the world. So, he convinced her too break off their relationship in hopes that when he was able to return for her that she would have lived a little and learned a little.
He wasn't gone for a year when he heard that she had gotten married, gotten her green card and moved to San Francisco. He was heart broken. I took pictures of him with a ring box and he made a proposal video. She never responded, and I just knew it was my turn.
We started "dating." We were already living together at the time. I started hearing stories about Shuo. She managed to get back in touch with him. I couldn't take the stories. Every time that he mentioned her, I dissolved into a puddle of tears. But I loved him like my life depended on it.
Two years passed
"I hate that I can't ever talk to you about what's going on in my life."
"I really wish you would..."
"You can't handle it."
"I do my best. Let me try. Please."
"Please, let me try." Tears stung in my eyes.
"You can't handle what I'm going to say."
"Yes, I CAN!"
"Shuo came to visit me that weekend. Now, she is pregnant with my baby."
I felt the impact in my stomach, like I had been kicked. I slid to the ground, heaving and gasping for breath. I wish I could say that I blacked out and that was the end of the story... but I didn't and it wasn't. The baby turned out to be a lie, to prove to me that I couldn't handle what he had to say... but you can't take back words like that.
We talked all night, if you can call it talking; intermittently fighting, sobbing, yelling. We were getting on a plane in the morning to California. We had an interview for a postgraduate fellowship. Rather than staying in a hotel for the night before our interviews, he asked me to drive all night to San Francisco so that he could see her. I said yes. There wasn't anything else to say. He loved her... I had always been second choice. We were over. He had been my everything. In fact, he still was. I was nothing.
The following morning, we got on the plane. Something felt terribly wrong. The clothes I was wearing felt like sandpaper on my skin. The roar of the plane was deafening and painful. I couldn't move, loaded into my seat like a sardine. There was a baby crying. I tried to sleep. I couldn't. I felt panic rising in the back of my throat like vomit. Or maybe that was vomit. The people behind me were talking too loudly. My mouth was dry. I couldn't relax in my seat. I tried to sleep. I couldn't. Every second felt like a day. I started wishing I would die. I didn't die. That two and a half hours felt like weeks. We landed in Houston.
I would have clawed my way off that plane had it been possible. The feelings didn't stop. I found myself hyperventilating. I was frantic. Getting off the plane didn't help. But, he was with me. He got us to the next gate and on the plane. The feelings didn't stop. My skin felt raw, my nerves, my mind was awash in a sea of horrible, overwhelming (perfectly normal) sensations.
It was hot.
The instant we pulled away from the gate, I knew it had been a horrible mistake. It was hot. We taxied out onto the tarmac and paused... the baby kept crying. The people kept talking. My clothes kept tearing my skin. It was hot. The panic had never stopped, but now it was worse. We sat on the tarmac, while I wanted to die, while I wanted to tear my skin off, while I just wanted everything to *cease*.
Forty-five minutes passed. The only thing that kept me in my seat was the idea that, IF fate/providence/god/gods saw fit, the plane would go back to the terminal. If the plane would just go back to the terminal, everything would be ok. If the plane would just go back to the terminal, everything would be ok. If the plane would just go back to the terminal, everything would be ok. If the plane would just go back to the terminal, everything would be ok.
The plane did go back to the terminal. It was missing some part. All of my thoughts, the grating, rasping, tearing, burning sensations told me to FLEE.
So, I did. I shared a rental car with this delightful alcoholic, lesbian flight attendant who dropped me at my parents' house. And the rest of that story... was my first manic break.
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