For sometime now I have been sporadically posting. I should share with my readers that that I suffer from panic/anxiety disorder. The condition cropped up when I was living in New York, triggered by September 11th stress and the death of my beloved Dalmatian- Paloma. Afrocity thought she knew how to cope. She handled homelessness, starvation, September 11th…Why should the death of a dog be any different?
After staying awake all night with my dog who was obviously having trouble breathing, I fell asleep for one hour. When I woke up, she was dead. What do you do with the body of a dead Dalmatian in New York City? I decided to call the veterinarian who instructed me to physically wrap and bring the body four blocks to 75th and Broadway. My hair was all over my head, dark circles were under my eyes. I smelled musty. Must run a bath first. Must wash up. The dog is sleeping upstairs.
Then it hit. A sharp pain in my left arm. Throbbing chest pain, my heart began racing. I was sweaty and faint. I was gonna die. This is what a heart attack feels like. Oh my God, I am dying. Call 911!!!
The next thing I knew, paramedics were carrying me down five flights of stairs, past a few onlookers. What a beautiful Saturday morning and I was dying.
That day, my heart rate would dangerously elevate four times before the doctors finally decided to dope me up with Xanax. Before discharging me that evening, the physician gave me a card. It was for a psychiatric facility. I had panic disorder and would deal with it the rest of my life.
Why now? Why after all of these years of coping with molestation, hunger, cold winters in Chicago without heat– why would the death of a Dalmatian send me to a shrink’s Eames daybed?
Questions still persist five years later. I still deal with anxiety, especially when something from the past harasses my present and future.
My lease is ending and I need to find an apartment. The scars of evictions past haunt me to this day, despite my well heeled zip code, my more than adequate income. Despite my good fortune, I am still anxious and at the mercy of young Afrocity and mother, walking the streets with the Chicago Reader classified ads. We wanted to live on the North Side of the city. With the white people so I could attend better public schools where my classmates did not get pregnant.
Our being on welfare was a huge obstacle.
Section 8 housing was beneath us. Mother never applied for it. She hated welfare enough as it was.
“Section 8 only puts you in projects with other niggers,” she told me. “If we want to live in Lincoln Park, we can. We just need a co-signer or someone to give us a break.”
Day after day, mother and I would look for apartments. Levolor blinds were always a draw for me. It just sounded classy, unlike the newspaper that covered my windows at the time. Levolor blinds, electric stove, elevator building with a doorman.
That break never came for mother and I. There would be no co-signer. No welfare moms in Lincoln Park. We could not afford $500 a month for rent when our check was only $225.
“Maybe if you found a job-“
“Be quiet Afrocity,” she retorted as we sat on the stairs of a brownstone apartment. We were just rejected again. “I am thinking…Shut up and let me think.”
Heat was shining on us. We were getting blacker by the second. A half eaten bag of Doritos would do nothing for my thirst. Across the street was a school, white kids were playing on the swing sets with their nannies. See Sawing up and down without a care in the world. Though I am ashamed of my thoughts then, for a moment I wondered how our lives might be different if we were white. There would be Levolor blinds, a father who worked on Michigan Avenue. I would attend fancy schools and learn to play Suzuki string violin.
“Here is a place on Pulaski and -“
The very mention of the street name “Pulaski” snapped me out of the daydream.
“Pulaski!!! But that is on the West Side you promised we would live where the white people lived this time,” I protested. “You promised me we would live on the North Side with good school and the Levolor-“
“Not this time,” she shook her head. “School is about to start and we need an address. We can take one of the places where we can get a place… You said you liked Oak Park better than Chicago anyway.”
Glass came over my eyes. I put my head down. She did not like to see me cry. She never allowed it. Lumps came in my throat. Envy swelled for the kids in the school yard. Mother stood up which meant it was time to go. I left the paper and bag of Doritos on the brownstone steps, the #72 bus was waiting to take us home. While I looked out the window, the bus passed through neighborhoods turning from vanilla to coffee, to chocolate. Within an hour, we were back in the ghetto, defeated again.
As I leaf through home decor magazines today, I see much of the same furniture not through some North side stranger’s window but in my own apartment. The Levolor blinds of yesterday are now the stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops of today. I have a real estate agent that helped me find an apartment. My foot and more is in the door. Open houses are now offered by private condo owners facing foreclosures. Beautiful empty apartments once inhabited by slap happy metrosexuals. Others by families who have to move in with their parents because someone lost a job.
“It is cheaper to rent my condo out and live with my parents,” a woman would tell me. “…Recently…there have been some unexpected circumstances in my life…It can even be furnished if you like.”
Somewhere in the Bible, there is a verse that says:
The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
Funny how life works out. Who ever would have thought that the nappy headed little girl would now get calls from people in Lincoln Park actually needing her. Needing her to rent their apartments. That once enviable feeling has now turned into pity. Pity over the foreclosure sales, pity that healthcare is being shoved down everyone’s throat while people are losing their jobs and homes.
I still have my own bitter pills to swallow.
Xanax guards me from my nightstand.
The thought of moving yields night sweats and panic.
So what is it like to rent an apartment now?
It is not different than before.
It never will be I suppose.
The fear always moves with me no matter how much I box, bubble wrap and pack it away.
I can find the perfect place with the perfect arrangement of bay windows, a lakeside view. Like the place I live now. The place my mother died before she got to see it. A high-rise in the sky.
Mother never made it to the promised land.
She never got to see me with the blinds.
AUTOGRAPHED LETTER SIGNED,