Monday, August 21, 2006

In the Present Tense - panic

Here's something for Moody, after reading his story of lifts and stairwells with a group of Japanese students visiting Sydney.

In the gleaming silver foyer of a Melbourne tower, I stand outside the lift waiting. I have a consultancy task with two people who are on Floor Twenty three. Waiting for the lift to come to Ground Level.

I am in the toilet of an unfamiliar building. Two weeks ago. The latch won’t budge. I breathe deeply and wait, then carefully manipulate the latch until it sweetly slides open.

I am in a squalid smelly entrance hall to a twenty-storey high rise, accommodation for the poor of Melbourne. Our friends have a flat on the 19th floor. My husband reassures me, it will be fine. A notice on the wall says, If the lift fails, phone such and such between 9 a.m. Monday to 5 pm. Friday. It is Saturday. A flock of Muslim women and children push into the lift. They get out at Level 14 and I run with them, and climb stairs to 19. Two hours later I walk down 19 floors in the stairwell and my husband thinks I’m barmy.

I am going through the airport tunnel to Gate Two in order to board the 747. There are no windows or sky. Only the smile of a familiar lad from Labasa who is a steward reassures me.

For thirty years I had travelled back and forth to Fiji, enjoying the flights. This panic regarding planes is something new to experience.

I have bouts of bronchitis and the doctor prescribes Ventalin. But isn’t that for asthma? Twice I have to stop the car, lean over and breathe slowly and deeply.

I am visiting the Animal Health Laboratory a week before it opens. Years ago. We are guests looking about. I go through a locked door with a shower for staff, a second locked door. The inner space for scientists to study dreaded animal diseases. There are no windows. I rush back through doors and shower and passages and watch a video downstairs while I wait for friends.

I am on a bus, fully loaded and sit in the second last seat, upstairs. I demand a seat near a door. I must get to Sydney and even further for a music symposium. I’m given a small seat near the door downstairs.

I listen to a favourite radio program. I am twelve years old. The heroine has been kidnapped, tied up and bundled into the boot of a car.

I am learning to play a Rachmaninoff Prelude. I am eleven. My piano teacher tells me the composer imagines what it’s like to be inside a coffin, buried but still alive and he needs to practically bang on the wood.

Another piano teacher, a nun this time, sends me to the Catholic school classroom, an alien place. I practice scales and then find the door is locked. It is out-of-school hours.

I am six. It’s a summer of blinding dust-storms. I walk alone, returning from Primary School, terrified, trying to find my way back to my mother, feeling the fences with my hands, but lost in the orange dust.

No, I will not go to the 23rd floor. They can come down and we can talk at a café. There are tables and chairs, sunlight and space. Yes. My heart lifts and the day is delightful.


Blogger Penny said...

Wendy thank you for your comments, I have had time to get to the computer and have another look through your blog, it is fascinating, I hate heights but I sort of cope with them, was totally freaked going up the 72 or is it 74 floors in the very high building in Surfers paradise, couldnt get out fast enough, my friends think I am mad! Love your sketches.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I was just about to close down the computer when your comment popped up. Ah, another understanding person. Perhaps you come from a wide open land also. I was born and bred in Mallee country, with wide wheat fields and clean skies. No locks on doors or windows.

I can go in a lift only if my husband is with me - I suppose if the lift gets stuck - as I imagine it will - I can at least talk to him for an hour!

I did find a good website on claustrophobia though and will intentionally read their pointers, though I'm not going to get into hypnosis though!

4:12 AM  
Blogger The Moody Minstrel said...

Thanks, Wendy! That was an interesting read, and I was really able to get into the mood.

I grew up in an area enclosed by mountains and forests of tall trees. Perhaps that's why open areas tend to bug me.

Guess what? Now I live on a plain...

8:13 AM  
Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I wonder how many of our obsessions go way back to childhood. This fear was moderate for most of my life but became worse, I think, after the bronchial episodes.
It is hard for me to imagine a life with mountains and tall trees. Our Mallee scrub is short and untidy and the skyline a straight line.

5:33 PM  

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