As we rolled away from the house in Lou’s truck, a hollow cave opened in the pit of my stomach. Hello scary monster. At least it wasn’t the kind of panic attack that started in my chest and made me feel like I was going to suffocate. But both kinds totally suck.
The hollow expanded in my innards. I leaned forward and examined the carpet by my feet—not that it held any real interest for me. Doubling up didn’t make the panic attacks better, but sometimes my body didn’t give me any choice. When I told the doctor I didn’t want to take drugs for them, he told me to breathe into a brown paper bag when I started to feel one coming on. I really, really, really, didn’t want to take drugs. Now, the brown paper bags were in my suitcase in the back of the truck, impossible to reach.
“If you don’t have a bag to breathe into, at least try to breathe slowly,” the doctor had said. I drew the crisp air-conditioned air in through my nostrils. Lou’s cologne smelled like nutmeg and cedar. You’d never know he got dressed in the tiny bathroom of a sailboat every morning. I glanced left at Lou’s cuff-linked wrists, and the confident way he grasped the steering wheel.
I closed my eyes and breathed. In… one, two, three. Out… one, two, three. That hardly ever worked. One out of ten times at most. But this time it did. The cave deflated. I leaned back into my seat, opened my eyes, and let out a big breath.
Lou glanced at me, and a worried look flickered across his face. “You okay?”
“Big picture or little picture?”
Big picture: I was a leper now, my friends were probably embarrassed to have ever been seen with me. They never said that to me, but no one texted, no one called.
I bit my upper lip. “Little picture.”
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