I tap my nails against the hard wood table. Staring at the menu, thinking it may as well be written in french. So complex to me, but simple to my sister across the table who has mastered both languages. My palms sweat so I put them under my legs hoping I will vanish into thin air. I keep an eye on our waitress while she asks the table near us what they would like to eat. She’s pretty but not the intimidating type that makes me even more nervous. My sister and I make brief eye contact. My dread must have been communicated since instead of letting the waitress ask me what I want to drink, my sister says we will both have chocolate milkshakes.
Round one is over. I survived. I swear the waitress can smell my fear. I feel like an incapable child but it’s better than stuttering on a word or saying the wrong thing right?
I pretend not to flinch at the sight of my sister sympathetically looking at me wondering whats wrong. I haven't ever ordered my food and I rarely buy things by myself. Usually it’s my sister or my friends. Actually it’s always my sister or my friends. One of the requirements of hanging out with me is letting me be a child and speaking for me. Not that I like it but I do like not running to the bathroom to puke whenever the waiter looks at me and says “Do you want fries with that?” or when the flirty guy behind the counter asks if I want my receipt.
My mouth freezes. My lips are suddenly bricks that have been glued shut. My fingers are practicing for a marathon as they tap on my leg at record speed. I awkwardly laugh it off when suddenly it’s round two. Every word that could possibly be said in round two is rehearsed. Set up. Prepared. Controlled. Ready? I grit my teeth.
Suddenly my mind blanks and I recall the time last year when I had to memorize my essay and explain to the class a concept I can’t even remember the slightest about. I stutter and the only two words that seem to come out are “like” and “ummm”. I sound like a child whose forgotten that weeks vocab words consisting of “yes” and “no” and “please” and “the”.
I snap back into reality when my sister swiftly kicks my leg under the table. Here we go. The pressure is flooding me. I think i’m dying. Is this what a heart attack feels like? Why can I only see black spots. I will throw up right here at this table. Right on my sister. I look up and charmingly smile at the waitress who patiently waits for my order. My insides stop. My blood is the temperature of ice. It stops flowing. I look down and think think think think think.
“Um may I please just have a side order of fries?” Instead of “Where is the nearest hospital? I think this is the end for me.”
I’m a pilot who can't find her plane. I’m a rockette who seems to have misplaced her legs. What good is a hearing and vocal person who won't use her words. How is it that Malala could stare down a gun yet I can’t even look at a face. A face that is a map which I was never taught how to comprehend. The sounds coming out just white noise. Freckles a constellation and eyes the sun, too bright to look at for too long. Why am I so afraid of space?