There is a tingle in my fingertips, a rhythmic shaking in my hands; nervous energy I cannot liberate. A flick of my wrist, a crack in my bones—a short-lived release; one, two, three breaths of freedom—a temporary reprieve. But the fear of death is inside of me and I cannot shake it, and I cannot hide from my pulse. Each measured beat grows in my ears like a siren’s blare roaring out into the night, a rush of wind and ocean crashing within me. The knowing and the unknowing of what’s to come have me cornered and I am paralyzed.
Break glass in case of emergency, the warning reads. But every unfamiliar sensation—and sometimes even the familiar—sends shards of shattered glass recklessly to flight as my body violates itself violently with the very system devised to protect it. A feeding-frenzy of adrenaline breaks through me, seeping into every empty space it can find until I am helpless to its blinding, searing rage. I am simultaneously catapulted and retracted, the ground pulled from beneath my feet, the air forcibly-removed from my lungs.
There is an urgency to move my legs now, competing with my body full of lead. The result is frenetic movement below while my tired form desperately tries to center itself, bracing against attacks on every side. A knot in my abdomen tightens and I feel the remnants of my last meal threaten to return, the acrid bouquet of fear and loathing rising with it. The movement of my legs keeps it at bay, a silent, kinetic supplication I will repeat with compulsion throughout the night.
Deep, reassuring breaths intervene—in, two, three, four; hold, two, three, four; out, two, three, four—and I remind myself that I cannot trust my body. Just breathe—in, two, three, four; hold, two, three, four; out, two, three, four—and I remember the only way out is through it; there is no turning back now. As if on cue, goosebumps make their way across my skin and tiny spasms tremble my flesh and aching bones. My jaw sets a locking-grasp on itself, but this does not—cannot—prevent the involuntary chattering of teeth that, though gentle at first, gives way to a crescendo that rocks my entire body with a swift CLAP.
I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I’m too young to die. My son will never remember me if I die. Oh!—my son! The thought is too painful, the pressure on my heart too real as it cleaves in two. My pulse flutters in my ear and a seizing panic threatens to engulf me again, taking me to a place from which I fear I may never return. With phone in hand, I clench tightly to what will be my only companion as I ride out this cresting wave. Music, a reliable absolution, will muffle the insidious whisper of wings in my ear. I fix my mind on the poetic solitude of Sleeping At Last’s Overture, “we inhale, exhale, and reset;” his words my path, his name my goal.
When I awake in three hours’ time, I will not immediately recall the course of events that brought me to the couch. My fingers will recognize velvet cushions and I will remember I am not in my bed. And reality will set in. Again. It’s a strange space, the immediate after; unsettling in ways I cannot quite convey with words, but I feel it in my bones. I am alive! I did not die! I’m grateful, to be sure. But over the course of the next few days I will remind myself many times of what I now know to be truth: that I cannot trust my body, and I never will again.
The featured image for this post is The Wormhole by Trey Ratcliff.