When I get off the runway after the show, Aideen is staring at me. At first, I think it’s just a woman who looks like Aideen, and even that elicits enough fear that I can hardly breathe. I take a closer look, I notice the woman’s turned up nose, her lazy sneer, the despicable way she looks at me, and I know. My birth mother tracked me down. I don’t know why, and I have no idea how long she’s been watching me, but I’m afraid, and it’s been well over a decade.
She doesn’t speak to me, just stares. Somehow I feel like that’s worse. I’m bloated, and fat, my stomach a roll over the band of my trousers. It grumbles, loudly. I already ate. Aideen watches me pass, her eyes sharp. My chest tight, I begin to run for my hotel room, and my legs wobble underneath me. It’s as if the entire world stands still, unmoving, except for me. I know that doesn’t make much sense. As I push through the crowd, Aideen disappears into the throng of people.
Not a word. She didn’t say a word, and still the anxiety bubbles in my throat until I can’t breathe.
When I fall against the door of my hotel, I pant, my legs locking, I fall to the floor. I’ve had anxiety attacks before, but never like this. The room spins so quickly it makes me feel ill. I’m staring at the plain, unpainted wall, fixated on its tiny bumps and crevices; I’m staring, but I don’t see anything. Nothing, but a clear, fuzzy space, a blanket in front of my eyes. I quiver fiercely, jolts, sudden tremors that pain me with their violence. I’m going to be sick.
The brightness of the lights irritates me. Over the pounding of my head, I can’t hear, and I can’t think. I pull a finger down the jagged scar on my face, and I touch my scarred arms, and I stare, and sometimes, when I stare at myself long enough, I begin to look like a stranger. Most people don’t know what that feels like. I can’t describe what it feels like to stare at your reflection and not recognise it, or what it feels like to lose complete touch with the world around you. It’s difficult to explain. Sometimes, I swear the world is make-believe, and I’m living inside a dream.
The anxiety bubbles. Oh, God, I can’t breathe.
In the bottom of my suitcase, underneath the layer of clothing I’ve packed for this trip, there is a sandwich bag with enough flake to get me high for days, enough even to share with all my friends, if I had any.
When I asked Finn to get me added to his visitor list, he was, understandably, confused. I’m just a stranger who gets high and hooks up with him sometimes. We’re not friends, and we’re not lovers. I guess we’re just two people who relate to each other, I guess that’s why we keep hanging round one another. Maybe we’re friends. It depends on who you ask. It depends what you mean by the word friend.
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