We gape, opened mouth, at the line reaching back towards us. Sunday afternoon matinees are usually foolproof. Low volume, quiet theatre’s where one can stretch long legs and lay coats on seats.
In the line for snacks it begins to mount, the silent wave squeezing my lungs, methodically. I push back, ignore it, snark about speed. The man in front of me comments that everyone is going in the theatre, the same one we’re going to need to be in. Everyone. A full house.
I can feel my eyes pounded out of my sockets. I foolishly left my Ativan at home, by now adjusted to and good with the slight crowds. I hadn’t expected this, though I should have on a -16C day. I stare intently at the tiny piece of down feather escaping from the jacket in from of me, willing it to let go.
The noise is like a surf, rising and falling, cresting and slamming against me. It becomes so loud I can feel myself getting ready to bolt, suddenly each single noise has joined hands to play red rover, the incessant beeping of some machine, the low level hum of conversation, the shrieks of laughter from far too many pre-teen boys, the inane chatter from the girl-women behind me, popcorn, change on the counter, footsteps, sighs. It rolls over me and I start to panic and can’t breathe. I feel my legs begin to buckle, turning to jelly.
“Holy fuck.” I mutter, and it breaks, passing through me and around me, coming down, rising again ever so slightly then lying down, prone on the floor. Strength returns.
Watching two women who spent 15 minutes in line need to have bag sizes explained to them, as the cashier so obviously plots their painful death, breaks the panic. Brings me back.
In my head repeats a mantra, even as my thumb threatens to break the skin on my arm. “Nothing is wrong. All is fine. Noise is noise. You can do this.”
There’s something depressing and humiliating about having to tell yourself you can hack a crowd at 31. Something sad about feeling like you might faint in a public place for no more of a reason than it’s loud and overwhelming.
Finally, we grab our snacks, head toward our show. The only seats we can find quick are, thankfully, on the aisle, and at the front so my legs are free to roam. I’m ok.
Sometimes I’m fine, and it makes this all the worse.
I woke up this morning, finished a book, came downstairs to a contented family. I reached for the peanut butter in the cupboard and thought “I feel happy right now. Nothing magic, or extreme, just normal, garden variety happy.” It was so simple and pure that I wanted to hug it until it bled. I stood inside the moment and realized that it was the one thing I wanted for my life. The singular goal of just having a life full of this basic need.
At the risk of sounding trite, it was lovely. I so rarely am afforded a moment of peace like that. I grab it as fiercely as I can. I felt normal-I said to myself “THIS is what everyone else feels, in some cases, all the time if they’re lucky.”
I spent my time feeling normal for once. Normal mom doing normal mom things.
Cringing in a line waiting for fucking popcorn-it destroys whatever grasp you have on normal, rubs your face in the fact that you most certainly are not normal, points and calls you crazy. You wait for the people around you to notice that you’re nearly coming out of your skin, imagining the whispered giggles to be about you. You remember that your brain is fucked up and doesn’t work like most of the other people in the room and you suddenly feel like a pushpin on a map, a place people might have been but will never stay.
Suddenly your normal happiness is gone, leaving only the shame.
But. But this time, I focused on the fact that not too long ago, I would have taken one look at the crowd and taken off. I would never have stood so long, touched and bumped by so many strangers, I would have never been able to sit in a full theatre without leaping to the worst of panic’s. I would have given up at the first sign of that horrible bully seizing my innards.
I still hate it. I still hate these little jarring reminders of how fucked up shit is. But it’s nice to know that sometimes, I can almost win one.