Broken Arches - An Essay on Mental Heatlh

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It’s a brisk uneventful 10 minute walk from my apartment to the McDonald’s down the street. You cross a few deserted parking lots, an abandoned restaurant, and a few rows of street trees until you hit the golden arches.

 

So it was Friday evening, around 8 pm. Work had wrapped up, I was bored of Fortnite, and had just finished stretching out my ailing left quad muscle. Jacob had just left to play volleyball with the church teams — today was a tournament day so I talked some trash to him as he got ready. My parents were out dropping off food to my grandma, quarantined in her senior living apartment 2 cities over. It takes about an hour to drive there and back, including the usual Asian parent-child exchange of pleasantries and naggings. Jacob doesn't get back until around 10 PM after he stops for a smoothie and McNuggets on the way. 

 

I wanted to get ice cream — nothing fancy, a classic McDonald's soft serve will do. I figured I could put on some music, watch some basketball, and enjoy it in peace at home alone. All the cars were out, so I had to walk. It was around 8:30pm.

 

I hate going out during the day. The light's very harsh, the sky too blue, the grass too green. It looks like an ugly Windows XP wallpaper, oversaturated colors and all. The sunlight is harsh, blasting you like a blowtorch searing meat. 

 

I love the evenings. Walking in Michigan evenings feels like walking through a warm soup, if one could do such a thing. The golden hour sunlight softly soothes your skin like a knife cutting through butter. The light dances off of the clouds, creating gorgeous hues of orange, yellow, and later pink and purple tones as the sun drops below the horizon. Today was just like one of those days.

 

I was in a good mood as I crossed the parking lots on my way. It was another mini-roller coaster of a day, with depressing lows, and some fun highs — just your average day in quarantine. I started a bleak mood spiral during the week which was abruptly stopped when a few of my friends called. I love talking to friends and it's always good to catch up but to be honest, the real lifesaver is food — specifically a sweet, tooth-breaking, diabetes-inducing, fluffy, buttery, dessert.  I know this writing is super rough but I hope you get the effect. There's just something about the fluffy taste of an ice cream, or the rich bite of a doughnut that makes you forget about everything else. Sugar is the greatest escape.  

Anyways, I'm walking to McDonald's and I'm really excited. I haven't had soft serve ever since I tore my quad playing volleyball and sorely missed out on our postgame McDonald's runs. Jacob would always get a strawberry smoothie and a 10 piece McNuggets. I would alternate between the McFlurry and the soft serve. It's actually a tough decision because it's a balance between a short, richer, texture-y experience with the McFlurry (I eat fast with a spoon), or a messier experience with the soft serve, but longer, and more fun. Anyways, I wanted a soft serve.

 

Pulling my N95 mask on (my mom insists on me using those), I push open the doors of the McDonald's. The dining room is sealed off, and there's only one guy in the kitchen. He's a big guy and isn’t wearing a mask. Maybe I was intimidated by him, but nonetheless I ask if he's serving customers over the counter. The McDonalds dude says that they’re short staffed and he can't take any orders. "I can serve you through the drive thru brotha". I thank him and turn to leave.

 

I'm kind of pissed off and disillusioned - probably another case of broken expectations. I go home and figure out what to do. I find a stray moon cake on the counter and pop it into my mouth. It has a nasty aftertaste (think rotten figs) and I spit it out. It's now about 9:30 PM and I text Jacob to pick me up to go to the same McDonald's drive thru on his way back . Lucky for me, he's already in line, and asks me for his order. I frantically punch in "SOFT SERVE" into my phone. He says he can't hold it while driving. I settle for a McFlurry.

 

About 30 minutes pass by. I guess the drive thru really was busy.  He texts back saying he got a smoothie because they ran out of McFlurrys. I throw my phone across the room.

 

It was getting late, and I could hear the garage rumbling open as the black Lincoln carrying my parents pulled in. Jacob left the smoothie on the counter, and it was the first thing my mom saw as I went to grab it. I almost got away in time before she started lecturing me on how unhealthy it is to consume sugary food. Had that guy served me earlier, I thought to myself, we would've never gotten into this situation. I sighed and tried to explain that it was for my own happiness and it was something I really needed at the moment. She didn't take it well, and started jumping to other tangents, like how I wasn't grateful for their efforts to take care of me, or how I was ending therapy without telling them. Admittedly, I could be doing a better job at my relationship with my parents, but I've been stuck in a vortex of depression, anger, and bitterness at my own circumstances, at the world, and at my past. Maybe I'll write about it when this is all over. Who knows. 

 

I grab the smoothie and run upstairs to my room and close the door. At this point, I've retreated into survival mode, a natural fight-or-flight response I've developed from dealing with big disturbances in my life. Since I've moved back and forth a lot (COVID felt like a natural 'life disruption’ event for me - a common theme in my life), I've gotten rather good at it. 

 

Anyways, it's about 11 PM and I'm sitting here writing this while sipping on a watered down strawberry smoothie, pausing to crush stray ice shards in my mouth. My mom's arguing with my dad downstairs about my decision to end therapy, and my bad habits about wanting sugary food late at night.

 

Maybe you expected some deep analogy from this. Y'all know me well. If you’re reading this, you’re one of my closest friends, some of the most cherished people in my life. So thank you for not only loving me, but also for reading to the end of this mini piece. Y'all are the real ones. : )