"There's a price to overdoing it"-- Jay, "Fallin'" London, winter 1999
I had the flu. I was studying abroad my senior year of college and shortly after I arrived on the isle of Great Britian I realized there was an entire ocean between me and the next person who really gave a shit about me. I am an only child and very comfortable being alone, but that was a daunting thought. If something happened to me, it would be nine hours, at least, before my mother could get to me. I have tendencies to go out in search of adventure, but I decided I would be very very cautious the whole time I was away from home. (4 months).
So I get the flu and in typical dramatic fashion, I convince myself the end is near. (I dont do illness well.) I reluctantly cancel my (very expensive) trip to Spain, because there is no way I can travel to Madrid and Barcelona in this condition. Plus, I was going alone. I need my full strength to naviagte an even more foreign land.
I stay laid up in the house for 3 days, drugging myself into oblivion until I feel slightly better and realize I'm going stir crazy. I'm still coughing, but my head's stopped pounding and my body no longer aches. I convince myself that I will feel better if I do something that makes me happy.
I load up on drugs and of all places in London proper to go, I decide to go to Oxford Circus (a London shopping hub with the congestion of Times Square. I blame the drugs for thinking this was a good idea.) I hit up Top Shop and Miss Selfridge. I feel fine. Thirsty and a little tired, but otherwise fine. Hmm. Maybe I'm overdoing it. I decide to go home. I have to take good care of myself. There's no one around to care if something happens to me.
I hop on the Bakerloo tube (ie subway), which is crowded with rush hour traffic. I'm hot. Wiping my brow kind of hot. No one else appears to be warm. In fact, they still look flushed from the November cold above ground. They're bundled up in coats and scarves. My coat's been flapping open since I left the house. I'm so hot I take it off.
The train begins to move and I feel weak. My purse and bag feel heavy. Just standing is an exercise. And I'm dizzy. And really thirsty now. F*ck. When was the last time I ate? Other than munching on crackers and drinking OJ? I guesstimate my last real meal was 4 days prior. Food. I need food. I'll make pasta when I get back to the house.
The train is being held in the station for some reason. I hope it's not a sick passenger. We could be here all night. So I’ll cook at home (Baker Street), two stops away. I run through the contents of the fridge in my head. Then suddenly I realize I can’t wait that long. I don't feel well. I'm sweating. Something is wrong with me. I need water. I have to eat now.
I hop off the train. I'm on the “brown” line, which means the train is deep below ground. Slowly, I walk to the escalators, thinking of the concession stand in the station. I will get juice and a hard cookie (soft cookies don't exist on the Isle of Great Britian.) The escalators to get to ground level are so steep and long that the first time I rode them, I nicknamed them The Moving Stairway to Heaven. I thank God for small blessings. At least I don't have to walk up.
I get on the escalator and realize then that I'm getting weaker. I need food now. My bags, which were light just a few minutes ago, feel like I'm carrying all four of the concrete bricks that hoist up the double bed in my dorm room back in Maryland. And my head? Spinning like I've taken a whole bottle of Absolut to the head. I wipe my soaked brow with the sleeve of my sweater. I've got cotton mouth too like I've just smoked. I realize then that I'm panting.
I try to steady my breathing. It's not helping. I feel like sh*t. I look behind me, down the long moving stairway to Heaven, which I guess from this angle leads to Hell. There is no one behind me. I'm three-fourths of the way up. I'd run back down, but I don't have the energy.
I grip the railing. I'm so tired that I can barely stand. I gotta make it to the top. Just hold on, D. I breathe in. I breathe out. Again. Again. C'mon, D. I'm trying to do some sort of mind over matter thing, willing myself to get to the top, to get to safety. It's all I've got. I can't pass out on this escalator. At best, I will be seriously injured. At worst… Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I 'm scared now. I want my Mommy.
I hold my purse and my shopping bag to me tightly. I literally try to pull myself together. C'mon, D, I plead with myself again . Nothing.
I' start to panic. I'd yell for help, but there is no one around. Rush hour in one of the busiest, overpopulated city's in the world and there is no one around?! I yell my name in my head, pronouncing each syllable distinctly and deliberately. I am commanding me to stay alert until I get to the top of the stairs.
All systems fail.
I pass out.