He’s only 40, an age I’d still consider young for a doctor. I see the features of so many of my Chinese peers in his face, though he’s actually an Irish expat. Family and a restaurant sealed his parents decision to emigrate to the Emerald Isle when he was too young to speak. It explains why his conversational diction is impeccable while some spoken consonants are merged or lost, a familiar accent from being born into a Cantonese family. This immediately puts me on my guard. I’ve rarely gotten along with those peers; the culture hasn’t been kind.
But I’m not here for myself. I didn’t even make the appointment, which is why I don’t know what to say.
Thankfully, he takes the lead and takes his time. The questions cover a motley gamut, and I can tell how comprehensive his notes are through the clacking of the keyboard.
At some point he asks if anyone came with me, and I tell him who’s in the waiting room. He kindly offers to speak to her on my behalf, but she already knows. It’s the only reason I’m telling this story another time. I can’t help admitting how humiliating it is to be so dependent on others, to need people like her so desperately sometimes that I can’t imagine how I’d survive without them.
Without any change in his procedural tone, he says this sentiment is part of our Chinese guilt. We disappoint our parents by not being strong enough to live up to their expectations as self-reliant adults, but they prevent us from growing up by treating us like children and refusing to let us make our own decisions. He knows, cause he’s gone through the same thing. At the same time, he never condones my feelings, offering a reassurance that we all handle things differently, and that we can’t do it alone sometimes. It tells me he doesn’t just listen; he cares.
Before sending me off with a dose of Pristiq, he hands me a sealed envelope — on it written “emergency room letter” — and tells me to give it to the doctor at the Queensway-Carleton, while carefully suggesting I have nothing to lose at this point. It makes sense, but I’m not ready. Not yet. This is good for now. She’ll thank me for taking this step, one that’s as much for her as it is for me.
After, we hold hands in the car while waiting to be composed enough to be seen in public, bass lines washing over us like heartbeats, an affirmation of reasons for and the things I love.
I haven’t been able to come up with a way of explaining the absence. I guess I’m still figuring out where I stand at this particular moment, and what it means to keep going. Many days were lost to the flux of ambiversion, when all I was trying to do was survive the balance of how much space I needed with how much comfort I could only get from others. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned the importance of taking the time just to feel okay, which has mostly involved enjoying the games I’ve put off playing for so long, spending time with those who make me feel wanted+needed+awesome+loved, and drafting as often as possible.
My birthday came somewhere in between, a day I got to pick all the shows, eat dirty bird, and nest with the cats on me when they weren’t in the cuddle train. It made the whole day mine, not because it was something I asked for, but because someone wanted to give that to me.
I’m slowly letting my guard down, letting myself share new songs in the dark, so the positive experiences become a permanent part of me. Making new memories is a step towards soothing my history with heartbreak. The comfort I find in our embraces carries me through the time we’re apart, but feeling safe is still very foreign. Just touching fingers is a vulnerable step, and it’s like being on a tightrope every time I put aside my insecurities to make progress. Thankfully, she hasn’t let me fall yet.
Most recently, I started working at the busiest comic book shop in the city as one of the resident Magic experts. It’s left me trying to find my balance again, even though the job is part-time and never feels like work. The position mostly involves running the tournaments, trading/selling/organizing cards, and giving people game advice; things I already love doing in my spare time. A nice bonus is the fact that a new friend happens to be one of the regulars at the Modern Constructed tourney, and I get to root for him and see how he does between matches.
Shawn even came in to say hi and give me hugs on my first day. Reminders all around that make me feel worthwhile, instead of just believing it. It’s the difference between knowing something in my head to my heart, a gap I’m starting to bridge with help from the right people.