Survive The Jungle

Entry by: Freya

11th May 2016
Survive the jungle: A curious case of chronic dying

I have died so many times I can’t believe I’m still breathing.

The French consider an orgasm a little death but that’s not the type of dying I refer to. Don’t even imagine this is a confession of a sex addict. My passing hasn’t got the satisfying element an orgasm offers. It is sluggish and excruciatingly painful. While it lasts, I can’t fathom a worse kind of farewell. I feel every second of it. Don’t ever believe anyone who tells you death is a black hole, an abys of nothingness, a time when you feel or know nought. Oh, no. You do experience dying in its minutiae. At least my kind of dying.

The tingling in my toes is the first sign of what is to befall me. I wiggle them with energy every time death approaches, that is at least ten times a week. They say hope dies last, and so each time I hope anew I will be spared this time. I want to believe that the tingling is perhaps something less sinister. I hear restless legs syndrome gives you a tickling kind of feeling in your legs as if ants crawled alongside your shins. And, I hope that’s that, but then I recall the Wikipedia says you need to lie in bed to get the symptoms and I always stand when I’m dying so that can’t be it. The wiggling never really helps but it makes me feel as if by engaging in it I at least try to bargain for my life.

In no time, it spreads further up towards my knees, which weaken, and to my thighs, which first freeze but then begin to shudder. The trembling then wanders up my spine and enjoys itself leaping from one part of my body to another. I never know where it’ll hit next but, in any case, my whole body shakes so who cares where the source of this giddiness lies?

The tummy is never late to follow. Behind the sternum, the sack that is my stomach rumbles and slurps. It then sprays the acid through the oesophageal sphincter. The sourness burns my throat, bringing nausea. But the death works its way downwards as well. Garnering the mucus and the partly digested waste, it presses on my bowel so that I’m ready to soil myself. I don’t, luckily for my companions. I practice stretching the muscles in my rectum five days a week and thus I’m their mistress. The queen of the anus.

Breathing alters sometime midway. It’s accelerating by the time I’m clasping my buttocks in the effort to block the spillage. I then notice there’s little air in the air, and I gasp. Faster and faster, until I feel lightheaded and other people’s faces mingle. It’s then that I stumble and would collapse if not for my reliable compatriots. The pressure of their bodies on mine ensures I maintain my vertical position. As I’m short and light, I’m hanging in mid-air like a flying dwarf cuddled between the bodies of strangers. But I’m no longer conscious by then. I’m already dead.

It’s the brain not the feet, you explain to me.

If indeed it all starts with a thought, why can’t I get hold of it? There’s nothing on my mind. The announcement chimes in my ears. Then the doors shut. The crowd pushes at me from all angles. Sometimes some pervert rubs at my bottom and pretends that was by mistake. That’s all there is to it. I don’t really use that much of my brain to process the limited stimuli. You won’t convince me it starts with a thought. My mind is blank.

Mind over matter, you insist.

Perhaps you misunderstand, so I repeat. Each time I board the tube, I die. ‘Mind the gap’ is the church bell announcing my passing. Death takes the door click for an invite to plague my body. I admit that I cheat. My death is not the end. I survive each time. But I’d rather perish properly once than expire on my way to and from work every day. There is no cure for death, is there?

Panic attacks you proclaim, not death.

Potato-potato, I say.

Treatable by talk therapy or drugs, you ensure me.

There’s so much confidence in the nodding of your grey-haired head, so little doubt pervades your academic jargon that I nearly fall for it. Nearly. You’ve never suffered from chronic dying, have you?

You shake your head. That’s not the point, you say.

You can dupe death by drowning it in words or flooding with serotonin but it lingers in the shadows. It never leaves. It just hides.

Don’t I want to forget it’s there, you ask. You offer to bewitch it with your CBT magic. Thinking and feeling will eradicate this primal fear of crowds.

It will slumber like a tiger shot with a sleeping dart. Each time I take a tube through the jungle of London, it will leer at me with its sleepy eye. I argue.

Don’t I want to start enjoying my commuting? Don’t I want to learn to trust in the universal goodness of strangers? The beauty of big cities is togetherness they offer, you tempt.

I close my eyes and picture myself happily leaning under a rarely showered armpit of a fellow tube user, ecstatic as the pervert pinches my behind, merry as the toddler crying in the arms of his haggard mother vomits his breakfast in my lap.

No amount of CBT can work such wonders. I thank you for your counsel. I’ll pass. To survive the jungle one needs to leave it behind. A small city lost amid the moors would do. How about York?