Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Panic Attack

I hold the door as she walks through, without so much as a thank you and she takes a right, heading for the street. “Where would you like to go? You probably know this neighborhood better than I do.”

“I…um…don’t really know. Whatever you like is fine. I don’t usually eat out of the office. It…uh…doesn’t really matter.” I stammer across my words as I want to kick myself in the ass for saying such a jumbled sentence. The words never can properly come out.

She suggests that we lunch at a local bread shop, claiming that they have the most terrific warm sandwiches. As we walk through the front door, the odor of the coffee immediately fills my nose. I wince with disgust. But this is a place that she enjoys, and I will live with it. I squint my eyes at the bright lights highlighting the day’s bread specials. The smell of coffee and cigarette smoke enters my pores. My head whirls around to avoid inhaling it directly.

I divert my head to the cackling women on their lunch hour, sipping coffee that steams up their glasses. Wearing their power suits, trying not to spill the hot liquid on their dark skirts. Shoes clicking on the hard stone floor. A couple close to the door stand up, their chairs screeching and my ears wince in pain and I close my eyes. As I reopen them, I see the lights. The bright lights are burning into my skin. My heart is pounding in my chest and my breathing barely escapes my mouth. It’s tight. Too tight. My chest cannot take the pounding. The oven beeps, a lady hollers obscenities as she spills coffee on her dress. So many breads, so much to look at. Rows and rows to choose from. Too much to chose from. I spot the menu on the wall behind the cashier. Handwritten in chalk and spreading the length of the wall. Too big, the words are a blur. They swirl in circles around my head just as the coffee steams into my pores. The sound of noisy cashiers ringing up sales then yelling the order like slaves to their customers.

Calmly, in a way that I cannot understand, Maya orders a double latte and a #34 sandwich with extra mustard. My head whirls as I search for the #34. Whatever it is, I should just say the same thing. I cannot concentrate long enough to see the damn menu. It’s swirling in my head and I have to get out. Too loud. Too busy. Too many people. That’s enough. “THAT’S ENOUGH!” Those words were shouted from my mouth. And before I realized that I even said them, the entire café became quiet. The lights seemed dimmer. The noise completely halted. No more cackling. No more screeching chairs. Lots of eyes. Eyes burning a hole in my back, my sides. My hands are shaking and I want to crumble. My heart quickens to a pace that I’m sure will overload it within seconds. My shoulders hunch, I put my hands over my ears and peer at the terrible stone floor as I walk out.

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