Anxiety starts with hello. It meets my eyes, smiles, calls out my name.
Good morning, I think, push the words to the tip of my tongue. No, that’s not right. It’s 2pm. It wasn’t a good morning. The morning was spent looking for ways around this inevitability. Good after—Hey—Hi. How are you.
But anxiety has a wide, hungry mouth. Anxiety is a yawning cavern, begging me to get lost in it. The first step is easy, but five minutes wandering and I’ll be crammed in an ever-constricting tunnel. Anxiety will press in on all sides.
Dropped words. My voice crinkles and cracks. I can put these words on paper, so why do they turn to dust in the open air? I, uh, um, I, yeah.
Anxiety sets my tongue running on the back of my teeth as I listen. I’m not mad at anxiety. I don’t demand to know why it’s telling me about its weekend plans; I don’t hate it for going on and on. I taste blood. Anxiety smells like my own sweat. Anxiety is standing here in front of me, so why do I feel it pushing out of me, splitting me open?
While anxiety talks, it tweaks just the right neuron in my brain and won’t let it go. GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT.
Every conversation is an exit strategy. Anxiety nips at my ankles, herds me away.
So I run. I throw my exit line over my shoulder like an unpinned grenade. But anxiety stays there with me, inside me, tearing out of me one wing at a time. Anxiety hits the instant replay button and makes me watch, cringe, cry.
Why didn’t you ask about this?
Why wouldn’t you tell them about that?
What could make you possibly think they want to hear you ramble on?
Anxiety rubs my nose in my own waste.
And then slowly, repacking a parachute, deep breaths all around, I stuff anxiety back in its box.