In Writing

I am almost sure the mechanics of breath must have come naturally to me, at some point. It feels hard to believe, now, as I force myself to suck in a breath, and then feel the process rattle to a stall… what’s supposed to happen next? A bird attempting escape flutters in my chest… what’s next again? I try to remember. Ah, yes, push the air out. This is supposed to be the relaxing part, letting worries go along with air. I try to do it, but my exhale is incomplete, slightly alarming.

When did I start having panic attacks on planes?

The attendants with the carts inch up the aisle, slowly, and park it right where they block off my escape. I try to tell myself there’s nowhere to escape to, anyway, so what does it matter if I’m trapped? ┬áBut that is not soothing at all.

“Feeling okay?” asks the attendant, looking at me with concern. It surprises me. I can feel the melting on the backs on my shoulders, the start of a runny nose, but I don’t think I’m acting funny.

“I’m okay.” I answer.

“Anxious?” he asks.

It feels good to tell him, so I do. “A little,” I say.

“The turbulence?” he asks. I want to explain that the turbulence doesn’t help, but the last time I had an all-out anxiety attack, there was nary a bump, so that’s not it. I actually have no idea what it is.

“I guess,” I say, without much conviction. “How can you tell? Do I look anxious?”

“You’re pale.”

Vaguely I wonder if he’d have guessed I was freaking out if I’d taken the time to do my eye makeup and put on some blush.

I am disconcerted that my body can make up new quirks, that it can decide now I visibly panic on planes after four decades of being fine with them.

I go back to my National Geographic History magazine, but I can’t make myself focus. I read three pages each of the three books I brought with me. I want to get away, and not being able to is the worst part.

I write this, on my phone’s notes. It is the only thing that feels vaguely good.

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