“It happened again.”
“What happened again?”
I might as well tell him what happened. He’s bound to know. He’s gonna hear about it. Don’t know how, but he will. He’s got his ways. “That sickening feeling in my gut that tells me to scream and run and hide.”
“And did you?” he asks.
I could lie. I want to lie. I want to tell him that I did scream. That I did run and hide. That’s what I needed to do at that moment – to let it out. “I didn’t” I tell him. I tell him the truth. “Had no way of running and hiding.”
“What do you mean?” He’s starting to annoy the hell out of me.
“I mean I was in a far off place. Had no way of going back to where I feel safe.”
“But you made it, you’re here now.”
“Not entirely. I feel like I left a part of myself in that place. Everything I should be, everything I could be…I left in there.”
“Which one is it? ‘Should’ or ‘could’?”
“Does it matter?”
“You tell me.”
“It…matters. ‘Should.’ Everything I should be,” I affirm. “I left everything I should be in there.”
The man I should be when I’m out in the world seems like mere fantasy. An idealized illusion. What I say, what I do – I never say nor do. I often imagine scenarios and conversations with people of interest. We’d talk about life and art and music and politics and coffee and vaping and love and the weather. I’d be fascinating and they’d be fascinated. Same way I’m fascinated by them. And I’d be fascinated by their fascination. These people in the imaginary conversations – experts in the field, leaders of that world – I admire and idolize. Their works, their art, their voices and the things they have to say interest me. Fascinates me.
Underneath it all, though, they’re just as fucked up as I am. They just put up a better front.
“Why did you leave it? Why didn’t you bring it with you?” he pesters.
“Fear. Illogical fear.”
“You and your logic.”
“You brought it up.”
“Guilty as charged. What do you want me to say? To do? I’m trying. Doing. Doing my best to change how I’ve quote unquote lived all throughout the years. It’s not easy.”
“It never is. But here you are, making changes.”
“Is it enough? Are the small changes, small improvements, enough to reverse decades of misanthropy and self-loathing?”
“You know the answer to that.”
“I need to hear it from someone that’s not me. I need to hear it from someone who’s not one of the many many voices in my head telling me to do things…to feel things.”
“You’re doing that logic over emotions process again. To answer the question that you already know the answer to, yes. Every single bit counts. Every decision you make, every move you make, microscopic as they may seem, all count. Tell me about what happened.”
“I already did.”
“I could play back the tape if you want.”
“Okay, okay. Fuck.” Never should’ve agreed to that. “I’ll just email you the specifics, alright? Play by play, minute by minute if that’s what you prefer. Look, it was bad. But not as bad as the last one. I think. It could have been, but I got out of it alive. Not unscathed, but I’m still here.
…There were people there I knew, that I’m friends with since way back when, and I got to talk to them a bit. The attacks took a rest for those conversations. And then they were gone, went to watch the festivities or whatever. I didn’t tag along because…I don’t know. I didn’t want to intrude. Didn’t want to be a bother to them…
…I was there to cover the event, shoot photos, barely got to do that because of the attacks. I pretty much stopped shooting after Fools & Foes performed “Withering.” Just like the last time, I know. After their set, I was just either aimlessly wandering around the venue or was sitting down on the steps, pretending I’m not there. Imagining I was the man I should be. It was torture.
…On the ride back, I got to talk to the friend I rode with, told him about what I felt earlier that night, all the shit I was feeling in general. Haven’t been around him long, but he was cool, you know, told me that he understand, that he’s got my back. That helped.
…Anyway, I got home and I was halfhearted on things and decisions. On one hand, I felt like I should feel like shit for letting it happen again, that I wasn’t strong enough to actually be the man I should be in there. On the other, I should think about the little victories I had while I was there. The anxieties do supremely outweigh the little victories, but I should focus more on those. Things that made me smile even though I my head was on fire and my insides were melting and my heart imploding. Like one of the singer/songwriters that I admire and have shot a couple of times before introduced me to the organizers of the event. I talked to them for a while. Don’t know how I got to do that.
…Like, even while in the middle of the attack, I still got to call the attention of this singer/songwriter I have a stupid crush on and have her sign the photo of her that I had printed out. Gave her a print of a photo she likes, too. We chatted a bit. No, she chatted me a bit, said thanks for covering her set, etc. I barely said a word. Too flustered. Those high school butterflies in my stomach were resurrected. I was stuttering. I was monosyllabic. It was embarrassing. Wanted to ask her how the recording is doing, to tell her that she kicked ass on stage, that the crowd loved her, that she was radiant, and that her gravitational pull was working a hundred percent. I couldn’t. I don’t even know how the conversation ended.
…Like, earlier that day, this girl I know who was gonna be there helped me out by offering her meds if I have anxiety attacks that night. I wanted to take her up on that offer when I was knee deep in the battle. I saw her and I wanted to ask for her help. I didn’t. Couldn’t. I dunno. Lots of things ran in my mind: that I haven’t eaten anything all day and was scared of how it would affect me since I’ve never been in any medication before. That I was too mortified by the mere thought of walking towards her. She was surrounded by people so I felt like I was gonna be diving in much deeper into the ocean.
…Like, I heard the bands and singer/songwriters whose craft I am in love with live again. Even in those moments when I couldn’t shoot anymore and the sidewalk/stairs acted as my fortress and the said craftsmen and craftswomen were wearing their hearts on their sleeves for everyone to witness, I did briefly enjoy it. For several seconds, I was getting lost in the music and not in those sons of bitches in my head, not in the tragedies that I seemingly bestowed upon myself.
Like, earlier that day, I was given a potential music performing gig for next month. God knows I need to sing again. God knows I need to be up on stage again and wear my heart on my sleeves just like those I’m a fan of. God knows I need the one avenue where I get to speak again, where I get to be…normal…living. Alive.
Every little bit of victory counts, right?
“Certainly, it all counts. It all matters. Use it to battle your demons. Think of those when everything caves in on you again. Try to remind yourself of those when you feel like you’re drowning again. Those will help you survive.”