I’m standing in Verizon, completely panicking. I had just bought this phone two months earlier after I gracefully dropped mine into a river. My tank is empty, I can’t find my debit card, and I have $31.27 to my name. Did I also mention that my home and the nearest family member were roughly 1,600 miles away?
Verizon couldn’t fix my phone and I had already used my warranty. Dispersed back onto the streets of a strange city I felt vulnerable. I had stayed the night in St. Paul with one of my fellow interns from the summer, I had no idea how to get back to his house for help. Both of us in our early twenties and dumb as hell didn’t think to make a list of phone numbers in case my phone couldn’t be fixed.
I got into my car and drove. I was driven to keep moving; because if you keep treading water, you can’t drown. A Western Union blurred past me, an idea went off. Finding parking I got out and realized I had ended up in a grimey part of the city. I felt out of place. My mind was frantic, it wasn’t focusing. I barreled into an Indian market. The guy looked off-put by my presence and said he didn’t have a phone I could use. My reflection on the door on my way out startled me. Eyes puffy and red, hair going in every direction, my eyes darting around.
Undeterred I barreled into the next store, a Sprint. This guy looked more sympathetic as I bawled to him that I needed to use a phone. He handed me his cellphone, I quickly dialed one of the only numbers I knew.
“Hello?” My mother’s voice, someone I haven’t seen or hardly spoken to in six months. Someone I usually called only when I was in trouble.
“I’minMinneapolisIbrokemyphonenandIhavenomoney.” The words flew out in a jumbled mess punctuated with a sob.
“What? Slow down honey,”
“I NEED MONEY!” Frustrated I snapped, “The Western Union in Minneapolis.”
“What happened?” Mom was clearly confused. “Where is a Western Union in Charlotte?”
“Idon’tknow!” I realized I was pacing in frantic circles and people were staring. “YouhavegoogleIdon’t.”
I hear her in the background asking my father for help in finding a Western Union.
My mom had lost her job that summer and their house never sold. It hadn’t been a great summer for them, but they managed to scrape $200 dollars to wire to me.
Walking back to my car with a wad of cash, my heart hammering, my focus darting every, I felt an overwhelming sense of paranoia. My back against the wall, walking sideways. I got back into my car struggling to breathe.
I found a Wal-mart and bought the cheapest burner phone they had and went to a Taco Bell. Suddenly feeling like a covert spy I set up my new burner phone.
With less than $200 dollars, my spy phone, and some tacos I continued to my next stop in Wisconsin like nothing happened. I didn’t know my friend’s phone number or address. So I parked on the campus of the University of Wisconsin. To this day I’m not sure what my logic was, over 30,000 students attend that school and for some reason, I thought I could find her. After two hours of asking people if they knew this one random person, I gave up. I prowled the streets of a neighborhood that I thought was her street knocking on doors. This was an even more ludicrous idea considering there are more than 250,000 people living in Madison.
It was dark by now and in despair, I drove for hours, before finally parking in a hospital lot unable to continue. The worst part is that evening my old phone kept ringing, I knew it was my friend looking for me and I couldn’t answer.
It took me two weeks of frantic driving, sleeping in my car, and getting sidetracked by free things to do to finally make it home. The scary thing is I was a month and a half away from my first psychotic episode, and a year and a half away from being diagnosed as bipolar. All the signs were there but lack of mental health education and awareness played a huge role in my delayed diagnoses. I thank the spirits out there I made it back to my home state in one piece. And for parents who help out even when they have their doubts about my ability to functionally adult.