I'm standing in the middle of a little shop near my town, having a flirty text chat with my boyfriend person. The world is right and all is well.
Then I look up, I look around, and I'm filled with an unexplained, unprovoked fear.
Sick, hot fear.
My body quakes, and my hands fumble at the keypad on my phone. "I'm having a severe panic attack right now," I type. I send.
I'm having a panic attack. This is a certainty. There is no danger beyond my own brain, and I am ok here. I know this.
But my body reacts in fear. My stomach drops, then churns. I sweat. I shake. I want to get away. My brain begins its panic chant, and I wait, helpless, while it marches forward in chaos.
"You're here in the middle of this store, and everyone around you is dangerous. There is someone bad within this collection of people. Someone who wants to hurt you. Nothing you do can stop it. Demise is imminent, and you are trapped. There is nothing you can do to redirect this course of events. So just wait, and prepare. Bad things are coming."
Boyfriend responds with rationality and calmness. He reminds me that I'm ok, that he loves me, and that I can leave at any moment, hide in my car, and smoke until I'm calm.
I stay, insistent upon not being chased out of a thrift shop by my own irrational fear.
Mostly. I hide in the bathroom.
Acutely aware of every sound made by my jangling keys, my clunky bracelets, and my noisy heels echoing off the walls with every step. I am not invisible in here. I am a target in here. Being in here is more suspicious and attention-drawing than being out there, in the middle of all the evil-doers who have certainly begun to notice my absence. I gather myself, and return to the battle outside.
A man is watching me. Friendly glances in my direction. Smiles. He is very aware of me.
"He wants to hurt you."
I am convinced that he does.
He follows me. Absent-mindedly touching items for sale, and immediately moving forward when I move away. He's watching me.
My phone vibrates. "You're safe. You're my girl. I love you."
"This will be the last text you ever receive."
I am convinced that it is.
I check out, ever aware of the imposing and creepy man standing directly behind me. The cashier smiles. She hands me my change, and I grab my purchases without waiting for a bag, and flee, trying with everything inside me not to break into a sprint.
Safe inside my car, I'm immediately embarrassed, sure I've made a scene.
I'm embarrassed that I've been ridiculous and stupid in full view of my boyfriend.
I'm irritated that my latest attempt to be brave in the world has failed miserably, and that I'll drive home defeated, and regret it for the rest of the day.
I've decided not to feel that way.
So I didn't get what I'd originally gone out to get, but that's ok. I can go anywhere, anytime, now that I have my car.
So I didn't hit up that friend I'd intended to drop in on. But that's ok, too. There's time.
No one was hurt, and I didn't die, and I wasn't slaughtered by a lunatic inside some shitty religious thrift store.
I'm calling it a win.