Katie thought about the comfort of a sandwich: soft white bread, creamy cheeses, roasted, marinated vegetables. But then she thought about the strangeness of the restaurant, the anxiety of the unknown. Sure, the sandwich might be great. But what if the owner spoke Italian to her? It was possible. Toronto was like that, with pockets of people who chose to speak their first language first. It could catch you off guard. And what if the TV was playing loudly in the corner, some soccer game, so she’d have to shout to make herself understood, and the place was filled with intimidating Italian men in their undershirts, drinking tiny cups of coffee, leering at her?
Katie wasn’t prejudiced, exactly. It’s just that parts of Toronto could be intimidating. Or could feel intimidating, when someone was insecure about fitting in, when someone was worried about their right to be there, in the Italian sandwich shop, even if it was in their neighbourhood. This line of thinking is likely a source of racism, but Katie didn’t have time to combat her inner prejudices. She didn’t have the emotional strength at the moment to face her intolerance for middle-aged Italian soccer fans. She’d just had a fight with her best friend, dammit. More than a fight, a horrible misunderstanding that might have severed their platonic love forever, and she wanted a community she was able to navigate. She wanted the Thai.
Specifically, she wanted the nice Thai family who owned TryThai, a tiny restaurant on the edge of Kensington Market. It wasn’t really a restaurant, more of a shack, with a little counter and two small tables in the windows overlooking the busy street. Katie usually came here when she was in the neighbourhood. It was cozy, it was safe, and it was cheap. The Thai parents didn’t speak much English, but the four daughters who worked there did. Three of them were still in high school but Kimberly, the oldest, went to U of T. She was studying fashion design, but her parents thought she was majoring in Commerce.
“Sometimes having parents who aren’t interested in learning English has it’s advantages,” she’d once told Katie when Katie had been eating at a small table waiting out a rainstorm.
“What happens when you’re done school and you can’t get a job in business?”
“Oh, they won’t care. Because I’ll have my own fashion line by then.” She tossed Katie a fortune cookie, which, of course, was missing it’s fortune.
Kimberley wasn’t working when Katie went in for her Tom Yum soup. It was the dad, ("Mr. Thai", as Katie liked to think of him. She wondered if that was racist., too. It probably was. Sometimes life in the big city could be so hard. Racism was everywhere, waiting for privileged, well-meaning white girls to say the wrong thing.) Mr Thai always smiled at her and sometimes he added extra spring rolls to her order. This never felt creepy, only fatherly.
She pointed at the menu and said, “Tom Yum soup”, knowing she was probably saying it wrong. Kimberley and her sisters had given up trying to teach her how to pronounce the menu items. Mr Thai smiled and got the order ready for her. She noticed he was watching some soccer game in the back, and whenever the crowd would yell, Mr Thai yelled, too. Katie felt really lonely. It was enough to make her want to become a soccer fan. She would have an instant community, and also then maybe she’d be brave enough for the Italian sandwich shop.
At home Katie found not only the soup, but two cold rolls along with the two fried rolls she’d ordered. Nice Mr. Thai. She should really make a point of finding out peoples’ names.
Katie put the soup in a real bowl, and the spring rolls on a nice plate. She took a quick peek down into her basement to see if there were any major puddles on the floor, and, seeing none, she took her meal and sat down on her sofa in front of the television. She wasn’t quite ready to be alone with her thoughts. She knew the thoughts would go to Bad Places. She would think about what Melissa had said, she would worry about the art show, she would worry about Bobby, she would worry about what Melissa had meant by “grown up friends”, by “I really hope you figure this all out soon”. All? Of what?
She ate her soup and her spring rolls and she watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory, but had to stop part way through. It was an episode in which Penny auditions for a musical, unaware that she has a terrible singing voice. Katie was always hoping that one episode could end with Penny actually getting an acting gig. Instead she toiled endlessly at the Cheesecake Factory, her dreams of an acting career seeming more and more remote with each passing episode. Katie knew this was supposed to be a point of humour, a “let’s laugh at the delusional woman with dreams” kind of deal, but Katie had never found it funny, and today Penny’s plight nearly made her weep.
She went over to her bookshelf to find something else to distract her from her brain while she ate her spring rolls. There, on the bottom shelf, was Banish the Bad Feelings by Bringing on Better Ones! It was the cognitive-therapy workbook Aunt Angela had picked up at a garage sale during those Terrible Four Months. “Here, I thought this might help,” Angela had said, tossing the book into the darkened room where Katie had been staying. “Either this or a shower....”
Katie hadn’t used the book at the time, but maybe it would be useful now? She pulled it off the shelf and sat back down with her spring rolls.
Do you find yourself lost, fixated on negative feelings?
Are you wondering when things will get better?
Is your life heading a direction you’re unhappy with? Do you want to learn to steer yourself in the right direction?
Sure, thought Katie. All of that. She flipped the book open to the chapter: Fixing Your Life.
Make a table with four columns. In the first column, write down the current situations that you find difficult or are making you unhappy. In the next column, write down the reasons for that -- are you blocked because of outside forces? What about that situation can you control? Is the force internal, or external? If it is internal, how can you shift your thinking to make it better? What changes can you make to influence the external? Next, write down what situation you’d like to be in. Finally, write down some practical ideas about how you can get to that place.
Katie ate the rest of her spring roll, and looked towards the television. She knew Grey’s Anatomy would be on soon. Losing herself in Grey’s Anatomy might be easier than tackling things head on. Apparently they were doing musical episodes now.
But no. She was supposed to be an adult. And adults fixed their problems with things like cognitive therapy exercises instead of escapist television.
So Katie found herself a notepad, a pen, and a ruler, and drew four columns across the page. At the top of the page she wrote “Getting My Shit Together”.
|Present Situation||External or Internal?||Desired Situation||How to get there|
|Fighting with Melissa||Both.||Friends again.||Apparently I need to listen better. She doesn’t think I’m a good friend anymore. Take her shopping??|
|I’m not over Bobby||Internal. How to shift thinking...????||To be over the guilt. To stop feeling like I made a mistake.||I thought I was over it!!!!|
Write him a letter? Go visit him??
|Hate. My. Job.||External!!! okay and internal.||Making art for a living.||Who the fuck knows. Find Eoin??|
|Missing sister.||???????||Find sister.||Ha!|
|Everything.||Everywhere.||To be happy. To feel justified in giving up Bobby to pursue my dreams. To make dreams into plans. To face up to my mistakes.||Take responsibility for myself. Be my own hero.|
Katie stared at the list. This cognitive therapy stuff had promised results. Well, she had almost finished her list and so far she could only feel her heart racing and her stomach clenching. Plus she was thinking about Melissa and Bobby and Annie now, so she felt sick and teary. So much for steering herself in the right direction. This only felt worse.
And then her phone rang.
Katie jumped up, grateful for the distraction. Be Melissa be Melissa be Melissa.
“Katie? Hi, it’s Eoin.”
Katie jumped a little. It was him! “Oh, hey,” she said, trying for cool.
“I was just calling to see how you’re doing.” Like he’d promised he would!
She took a breath, and was so tempted to tell him everything, all about Melissa, the fighting, the blow up at the gallery-to-be. She wanted to cry, break down, beg him to come over and rescue her again, like he had at the wedding.
She glanced at her list. Be my own hero. It was pretty heavy-handed, but it helped. She smiled into the phone, having read once that smiles could be heard over phone lines, and said, “I’m okay.”
“Yeah? Because when I left you, you were kind of....”
“I know. And I’m still a bit...” she shook her head. No! Don’t choose that path. “I had a bad night, but I’m doing well.”
“Oh, that’s a relief.” He sounded as though he’d been genuinely concerned. “Because I was hoping you might want to get together tomorrow night?”
“Yeah?” Katie’s heart skipped. She hoped she sounded cool. She knew she probably didn’t, that the eagerness was evident in her voice. She grabbed her pen and scratched “Find Eoin” off her list.
“Yeah. I was thinking....”
Does Eoin say, “Yeah. I was thinking we could go to this art opening at my friend’s gallery on Dundas,”
Does Eoin say “Yeah, I was thinking you might like to come over for a traditional Irish supper at my place. I’d cook, of course.”