I live in a very nice neighborhood in Oakland, California. It’s in close proximity to not one, but TWO specialty sandwich shops, one specializing exclusively in fried chicken sandwiches. There’s an ice cream shop two blocks away that charges five dollars for a scoop of Kiwi-Hazelnut-Truffle Oil-Emu Fart gelato. I also live right next to a children’s hospital.
Almost every day helicopters transporting terminally ill or seriously injured children fly about 100 feet over my home. I don’t mind the noise. Not at all. It’s comforting to know that these kids are getting to a hospital as quickly as they can so their lives can be saved. It does, however, remind me how incredibly lucky I am to have been born an almost impeccably healthy human. Sure I have horrible anxiety passed on from generations of kooky Filipinas, and sure I have the shitty sweat glands of my hardworking (drunk) Irish ancestors, but I really have nothing to complain about. Yet I still convince myself almost every day that I’m dying of an ailment not yet recognized by medical professionals worldwide.
I must admit, I am not the most eloquent person, but I will try my best to write eloquently about how I feel when it comes to death… here it goes… WHEN MY TUMMY HURT I FEEL LIKE DEATH COME SOON. Every day is like, “Is that weird zapping pain behind my eye a ‘corneal tumor’? Is this bump on my butt cheek a sexually transmitted disease that you can only get when you wash your butt with another person’s loofa?” I OBSESS over these weird little bumps and pains that aren’t actually killing me until one night at four in the morning I wake up and convince myself I have gone to the “other side.” I am never completely “OK.”
When I become too engrossed in this weird hypochondriacal lifestyle (determines my deathstyle), I tend to come to the conclusion that the only way I will feel better is if a professional tells me, in person, that I am really okay and don’t have only weeks to live, Sweet November style. A few years ago I went to a doctor the day after having a particularly horrible panic attack that I, at the time, didn’t realize was a panic attack because I had never really had one before.
“What triggered the panic attack?” you may be wondering. Well, it all started on the roof of a warehouse I used to live in with six other art school kids. My friend Courtney and I were sitting on the roof at night, smoking cigarettes, y’know, like REAL ARTISTS, when suddenly we spotted a white owl flying right over our heads. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen, this bright white owl, moonlight bouncing off its wings, appearing out of nowhere from the dark sky. We talked about how beautiful it was all night. THAT’S how beautiful it was. A few days later we were on the roof again, looking up at the sky. The owl appeared again, flying practically the same route as it had the other night, right over our heads, right over the same spot we had been sitting the other night, in fact. We took the sight as a good omen.
That night I looked up the significance of seeing a white owl. Maybe it meant we would be blessed with good luck and fortune. Maybe it meant one of us would soon be married! Oooooooo! Turns out, spotting a white owl anywhere means that DEATH IS COMING. In our case, death was DOUBLE COMING. So, needless to say, once I “found out” about white owls, I “freaked the fuck out.” Amidst the stress of living with six other people, unemployment, and dropping out of school, my mind and body had a tendency to break down very quickly and very easily. I was “fragile” and “gross.”
After reading about the significance of seeing a white owl on a 14-year-old GeoCities website dedicated to “Omens,” I started finding it harder and harder to breathe, gasping for air almost, breathing short, quick breaths. I felt like I couldn’t take in any air and that realization came with an incredibly increased heart rate. I then thought I was having a heart attack, and that feeling led to uncontrollable shaking. I was a mess, guys! I was finally calmed down by a friend, who talked me down and made me breathe into a paper bag. I began to relax, my heart rate slowed down a bit, but I was still twitching from all the stress my body had just endured. I stayed up all night thinking about the owl, and hoping I wouldn’t die in my sleep.