The thought process of a young woman with anxiety.
I’m a counter. Yup, that’s right; a counter. I count steps when I go up and I count them again on the way down. I count the number of cars passing by while waiting for my ride. I count the seconds between ocean waves and also between lightning and thunder claps. I count tiles in bathrooms, usually for each color. And I even count pavement squares while walking city sidewalks. It’s this last one that netted me $48.73 in found money last year. And it was also my downfall last week. I was walking as I regularly do, head down, focused on my count, comparing it to the previous day’s numbers, when my giant clunky Doc Martens caught on the crack in the sidewalk. In a matter of seconds (6 seconds, I counted) my anxiety-relieving technique became my worst nightmare as I tasted a cruel mouthful of San Francisco concrete. I mentally cursed the giant shoes on my feet. Doc Martens are nice and all, but I’m slow and clumsy enough as it is so wearing Frankenstein boots on my feet really doesn’t help that. Mom got me them for me as a birthday present, and I wear them all the time even though I’m not too fond of them because it’s not like I’m one of those cruel daughters who yell at their parents for getting them gifts that give them blisters on the heels of their feet.
This is it. This is the end, I couldn’t help but think.
It’s not that I was injured – my fall was essentially broken by the oversized purse I had filled with stuff I would probably never need. Makeup, tampons, several books in case I needed to look busy in public, protein bars in case the apocalypse started and I needed energy to outrun the zombies, a change of clothes in case someone insulted the outfit I was wearing. But no amount of in cases prepared me for that moment. Physically, I was fine. Maybe a small scratch, but nothing that a bunch of melodramatic complaining couldn’t fix. Emotionally, however, I was destroyed. A million eyes were staring directly at me, a million voices were laughing behind my back. I could see the headlines: “Loser Girl Totally Eats Shit on the Sidewalk, Brings Shame to Herself and Her Family. Also, Her Hair Looks Awful.”
I would have laid there for the rest of my life, avoiding the inevitable Walk of Shame where I would have to play off my overbearing embarrassment, throw out a wide-smiled “I’m fine” to a pseudo-concerned passerby and try to pretend like my entire world wasn’t crumbling around me. Nope, I would not have put up with any of that, not for one second.
But then I heard the most horrible sound.
“Are you okay?”
The disembodied voice belonged to a man, who was probably there to make fun of me like
David Lingenbauer did in Middle School, even though I’m pretty sure Camron was just insecure because his last name was Lingenbauer and teachers could never pronounce it so they would just call him Camron L. I refused to lift my head, or give any indication that I was alive. Possums got away with the whole playing dead thing, so why couldn’t I?
“If you don’t move I’m calling 911,” the voice sounded worried. I realized that I couldn’t get away with the whole playing dead thing because, well, I wasn’t a possum.
“I’m fine,” I mumbled, my face still pressed against the ground. “This is my mid-life crisis.”
“Well I can’t really see your face, but you seem too young to be going through your mid-life crisis.”
Curiosity getting the best of me, I lifted my too-young-to-be-going-through-my-mid-life-crisis head and finally caught a glimpse of the man who refused to let me have a mental breakdown on the sidewalk. His dark, curly hair was ridiculously shiny, and I was tempted to ask him what product he used because my dry, unruly curls always ended up looking like dreadlocks and the last thing I wanted to do was accidentally partake in cultural appropriation.
“I get that a lot.”
The man raised a nicely trimmed eyebrow. “How old are you?” He asked, sending my creeper-senses into overdrive. I was still crumpled into a heap on the ground, and his only concern was that I would land him on the sexual predator watch list.
“Young,” I replied.
He looked like the kind of guy who would drive a BMW. I wasn’t sure what BMW stood for though, and the only thing that came to mind was Big Meaty Wang. Well, like man like car. The Big Meaty Wang man was still staring at me like I was a piece of meat. I was still lying on the ground like Rose did in Titanic when Jack sketched her and she was like “paint me like one of your French girls” and he was like “if you say so.” Except this was way less sexy.
A couple of seconds passed and the man didn’t leave, so I decided to stand up like a civilized human being. A sharp pain shot throughout my kneecap, which was totally lame because not only was I humiliated, but I was probably going to live the rest of my life in constant knee pain. I wouldn’t be able to walk down the aisle on my wedding day (like anybody would ever marry me anyways) and I would never be in the Olympics. I mean, I never planned on participating in the Olympics anyway. The only sport I had ever played was soccer in 4th grade, but knowing that I could always enter the Olympics if I wanted to was. But with a bum knee, all I would ever be able to do is sit in the audience, assuming I was physically able to make it to my seat (I would never be rich enough to afford good seats, so of course I would be really high up in the stands). The man only looked at me with dull eyes, oblivious to my now-destroyed future.
“How about I buy you a drink or something?” He asked without even asking if I was alright. I snorted right out of my noseholes.
“Uh, no.” I was squinting my eyes at Mr. BMW so hard that I could barely decipher the color of the Ralph Lauren polo shirt he was wearing. He had a serious case of “I Made Sure You Weren’t Dead So Now You’re Obligated to Have Sex with Me” syndrome.
“Whatever, you ugly slut.” He grumbled, shuffling away like a penguin because his shoes were probably as uncomfortable as my Doc Martens. His comment usually would have hurt more than it did, but my knee was already feeling better. Maybe I would get married and be in the Olympics after all.
I stopped counting after that.