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Refuge for the rational.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Antigua, a Dream, and Nervous Social Misfortune 

I’m going to Antigua this summer on an archaeological dig. I was planning to go to a mortuary site in Egypt with Penn State, but the deadline was the first of February, and it just didn’t give me enough time to get my passport renewed and letters of recommendation together. No bother, I can always go next year. And I will.

Despite being excited, there is also this undercover anxiety that wakes up to poke me in the belly every so often. I had a nightmare about going last night. I found myself in this strange hall that sort of resembled one of those medieval theme parks. It had dark stone walls that were lined with Persian-influenced doorways. Some of them had sheer curtains hanging from that were moving in the conspicuously absent wind. There were no windows and no apparent lighting, so everything had a calm dimness to it. The hall was incongruously carpeted with a solid blue-grey industrial carpet that ensured silent steps as I ran around trying to figure out where the hell everyone was.

I was dressed in a long royal blue gown, and when I found everyone else, they were sitting in a kitchen area, dirty, in their digging clothes, and clearly upset with me for some reason. I tried to talk to some of them, but they wouldn’t have it. I wanted to know where they had been digging, since I couldn’t get outside, but they didn’t like me. I hadn’t done anything wrong; they just didn’t like me because I’d had the audacity to dress up.

I left the kitchen because I was hungry and the others wouldn’t feed me. Further along in the hallway, I went through a door that opened to a take-out curry restaurant. For all intents and purposes it looked like any other take-out place, with no seating and those weird clay coloured tiles on the floor. The area in front of the counter was crowded, and I crammed myself in next to an attractive man who immediately told me that he was an Anthropologist working with my group. I knew I had to get myself into his good books somehow, because if I did, he could sponsor my inclusion with the rest of the group. Something startled me at this point and I woke up at 6 am feeling rather anxious.

It’s not hard to interpret. I’m probably the shyest person I know, despite having the ability to maintain a competent social exterior, for the most part. But, a lot of people don’t realise just how socially awkward I can be. It comes out at random times, for reasons I have yet to comprehend. For instance, the other day someone I vaguely knew came into work. For whatever reason, it made me intensely nervous, and my body reacted before my mind could by heating my face until it matched my (red) hair. I had the brilliant instinct that if I tensed my body and stood as still as possible, the people right in front of me may not be able to see me. This produced an adrenaline rush, which proceeded to make my hands shake. To make matters worse, my acquaintance was sporting a cunt disguised as a very attractive woman on his left arm. And clearly not being experienced in self-induced social marginality, she resorted to a common conclusion: well, actually, I can’t read minds, but it undoubtedly had to do with hot sex, sex, sex. She insisted on paying for their meal, and made a marked point of not tipping me (how could you really be threatened by me in that state?!)

Well, I felt really horrible for the rest of the day. Mostly, I was anxious about the fact that I had no desire for this person, and thus couldn’t explain why I’d reacted in such a fashion. And it’s frustrating to present a constantly misinterpreted front to the world. Especially when it’s that of a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl with a silly crush.

In hindsight, it probably had more to do with being caught off-guard and not knowing what constituted appropriate interaction. Which is why I often pretend I don’t recognize people. Highly neurotic, I know. I should think, however, that you could understand my commitment to avoidance when the alternative is so extreme.

So I’m nervous about sharing close living quarters with seven other people. And getting to know them. What if they already know each other? I’m bound to either find the experience rewarding, and benefit from the addition of anthropology-minded individuals to my sparse friend collection, or once again maintain my status as the shaky, red-faced, sweat monster.
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