I guess I need not tell you what claustrophobia is. Everyone knows that fear of being locked up in closed off spaces or they know of someone who has that fear. Most people who know me are aware of my claustrophobia. It is not just closed off spaces but tight crowds and sometimes even traffic jams can give me grave anxiety. More than the physical situation, I react to the feeling of being trapped, having my freedom from moving one place to another restricted the same way I would react to being in a tight spot. To be cut off from my freedom, from the world that I am used to is my fear and it is sometimes my nightmare.
An airplane neatly fits the parameters of a closed of panic-inducing place. And I must admit, when people are boarding, I have a distinct urge to fight crawl or climb my way out. This is why I get the window seat. I can take a few deep breaths and look outside, and I am usually okay until take off. Once we are in the air with metal sealed off careening tens of thousands of feet above the earth through a deadly cold and thin atmosphere, I am not bothered at all. Go figure.
Landing four thousand miles away gives rise to a similar sort of anxiety as claustrophobia. I don’t know if this phobia, this anxiousness has a name. It is this feeling of being so far from home with no way to get back. When the length of my stay seems interminable and the gulf so wide from me and my loved ones I may never get back to them. I guess some would call it homesickness. I know homesick but this feels different. I feel unsettled. Adrift. Not exactly longing for home but feeling a distance from it. I feel like this a for a couple of days, like my soul has come unbound and the world I have left behind might as well be in another universe or dimension.
So, for the first day, I struggle through the foreignness. I figure out my new surroundings usually by getting things wrong. I realize it’s part of the process of my becoming acclimated. The most important thing is not to panic. Do not get angry or frustrated. Just stay dogged and steady and fight the fatigue until there a time and place to rest.
While it’s a good idea to stay up the first night in Paris in order to get on a regular schedule, I am so tired, physically and mentally, that I take an ambien and go to bed at 6 pm. Of course, I wake up at 1 am. I tell myself bedtime stories about Zen and Emmett* falling in and out of love or about demons wreaking havoc with the living. I should be taking notes about these characters from my books but I let them lull me into a deep sleep instead.
Luckily, the next day, I awake in time for my trip to Versailles.