Struggling to Breathe
Chapter OneSlipping on my new Sperry topsiders, I felt that familiar dread creep slowly from the pit of my stomach up to my throat, where it formed a lump that refused to budge, no matter how many times I swallowed. My mother saw me swallowing frantically.
“Rosalind, are you okay?” she asked, coming over to me. She must’ve been pretty worried, because she used my full name, something she does only when she’s concerned or angry. Everyone, and I mean everyone, calls me Rose.
She looked at me, and caught my eye. I turned away, because it would let the lie come out easier.
“Yeah, Mom. I’m fine. I’m sure it’s just first day of school jitters.” I replied, feeling guilty, but knowing it was for the best.
She stared at me for a minute, and I could tell she was trying to gauge if I was telling the truth or not. But I sensed a shift in her eyes, and I breathed a quite sigh of relief, as she had chosen to believe me.
“Okay, Rosy Posy! Since it’s the first day of school, you know what that means: picture time!” She said cheerfully, if a tad fakely.
I rolled my eyes affectionately at the use of my old pet name, and then forced a smile on my face as my mother took out her camera.
“Oh, honey, you look gorgeous!” My mother said, her eyes starting to well up as she took the picture. I went to go grab my backpack, but then my mother’s voice stopped me.
“Don’t you want to see the picture?”
Of course. Every year since kindergarten, I had rushed madly over to the camera to see how the picture had turned out.
“Oh, I had almost forgotten!” I said, and plastered a grin on my face as I turned around. But, there was no way I was going to look at that picture. It was a reminder to me of who I was before; but who I wasn’t anymore.
My mother held out the camera for me to see the picture. I stared blankly at it, and then something caught my eye. I looked about the same from last year, I noticed in surprise. My hair was still long, brownish-goldish, and straight. Although, my sense of style had evolved, I noted with a grin, scanning my skinny jeans, topsiders, and blue- striped white oxford over a white tank top. Compared to last year’s ensemble of jeans, sneakers, and a worn out giants tee, I was doing better.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a mark on my neck, just where it connects with my shoulder. Anyone else would have brushed it off as something on the camera lens, but I knew the truth.
I ran upstairs quickly, telling my mother I needed my jacket. Instead, I ran to the bathroom with my concealer, and layered a huge amount over the burn on my neck. What else would I expect to happen after attempting to curl my hair this morning with such shaky hands? Dropping it on my shoulder certainly was painful, but it hurt a lot more now that I was touching it. But I couldn’t tell my mother, or let her see it—she’d think I was having a relapse, when I’ve never even recovered in the first place.
I ran back downstairs, and my mother smiled.
“So, Rose, I’ll drive you today, and you can drive yourself the rest of the year if you want?” she asked.
My lungs immediately clamped up, and I struggled to breathe. My heart started to pound, and my stomach somersaulted round and round.
“No!” I inwardly screamed as I struggled to regain control of my body. “Not today!”
Then I remembered that she said, if I want, and suddenly the panic attack stopped.
“Oh, but Mom, I love having you drive me!” I said, as I prayed to god that she hadn’t seen me struggling to breathe.
“Aww, Rosy Posy! Of course I’ll drive you then!” She said, and carried on walking to the garage. I assumed she hadn’t seen me, and I calmed down, and told myself I would stay calm for the rest of the day, no matter what.
That thought dissolved out of my head as soon as I saw the car waiting in the driveway. Instead it was replaced by memories that I thought were banished. They squirmed around in my head, invading every corner, inducing panic straight away.
I tried to use one of the tecniques the therapist had taught me, “Picture a calm beach, with waves gently lapping on the shores. Now lie down, and breathe slowly, feeling the smell of salt water go in and out of your nose. “The therapist’s signature nasally voice rand in my head.
I’d never really liked her that much, but I pictured the beach anyhow. Getting into the car, buckling up, and driving to school. The whole time, I pictured the beach. Calm and serene, just like I wish I could be. How I used to be.