This story is a rough first draft, loosely based off of a panic attack I had last year, showing the event in the perspective of my Mum.
She adjusts the tie and her fingers are trembling against the fabric.
I woke up at 7am to get her that tie.
My engine roars as I press harder onto the acceleration and it almost drowns out her heavy breaths. We just need to get there, let her inside and she will adjust to this new experience. She needs to give it a chance… please.
The desperate engine doesn’t quicken the traffic. It’s 8:30am for god sake! Of course we should have left earlier! Maybe it wouldn’t be like this if the traffic just hurried the fuck up!
I don’t glance across at her; I can’t bear to see anymore tears. There have been too many these past months and I don’t know if I can take anymore. Instead I stare forward, wishing there was a different route we could take that would get us to the restaurant in time, one without traffic or a hoard of school children crossing the road.
Because I know she’s going to break any minute. She’s a falling vase and if I don’t hurry, I won’t catch her before she shatters.
“M-mum…” Her voice quivers and I slam my hand on the horn before I even realise the distress that has overcome me.
“Why aren’t we FUCKING MOVING?!”
It’s like I pushed the vase myself.
She’s sobbing now, breathing rapid and arms reaching out to touch my shoulder. My foot is back on the acceleration and we judder forward. My ears are filled with mumbles and begs made out through barrels of tears. She’s trying to shake me now and I still can’t bring myself to look at her.
We’re so close to this restaurant… so close.
The word “please” has become a mantra in her vocabulary. It’s all she can make out. God, why is the engine so loud? I swear the other cars are screaming at me, but there’s nowhere to move! Something’s squeaking… no screeching! She’s grabbed my arm now, squeezed it, nudged it, tapped it.
Everything is deafening. I can’t concentrate.
I swerve to the side of the road and turn the engine off, stop the roaring car, stop the vehicles around me, stop the commotion.
My body crumbles. The tightened grip on my arm relaxes.
I’ve never cried like this in front of her before. My own daughter, watching me fall apart. I have never wanted to be out of a moment more in my life. I just wish she was okay. I wish she was able to handle this catering job. She’s trying to fund a trip to Malaysia! How does she feel capable to travel to the other side of the world, but not to serve some food?
“Please… please don’t do this.” I’ve never begged before.
“I’m so sorry… I just can’t…” I don’t need to ask what. I’ve heard this enough times to know.
I would do anything to make it go away, calm her thoughts and force her anxiety aside.
I sob even harder. I just want her to be better.
“I can’t afford this whole trip.” I try. “Please darling… just give it a go.”
“W-we’re going to be late.” She cries. “I can’t turn up late; they will all be disappointed in me and I’ll have to walk in when everything has already started.” I’ve learnt not to try and make sense of what she says, just accept it.
“We’re five minutes away. J-just message them saying you’ll be late.” She shakes her head. It’s a small action though, interwoven with uncertainty. Maybe she’s not fully convinced… perhaps her illness hasn’t completely drowned her rationality. I’m praying a part of her is still there.
“I really don’t think I can, Mum.” She tries again. She’s never had to try this hard, but I’ve never been this desperate.
Her fingers fumble with her phone and I notice that she’s messaging the restaurant. She writes about how she doesn’t think she’ll make it in time, how she doesn’t think she’ll be able to work. My chest hurts. The hope I had fades away.
She continues to cry, apologising and apologising and apologising.
It vibrates. She opens the message. She suddenly doesn’t make a sound; I wonder if she just wants me to drive home.
“They’ve told me just to turn up when I can.” Her voice is suddenly very hoarse, like she’s reading an uninteresting news article. I finally glance across at her and see nothing but an emotionless, tear stained face. She’s staring at her fingers, rubbing a nail with her thumb. She brings a hand to wipe the tears before moving it to adjust her tie again.
I woke up at 7am to get her that tie.
“I guess I need to go.” She mumbles and I find my eyes gleaming again, relief washes over me.
“Thank you darling.” I cry. I don’t want to say anything else; I want us to get there. But I can’t stop myself from reaching across and taking her hand. It’s not trembling anymore. “I promise that you can do this. It’s making me so happy that you’re going.”
I turn the engine back on, surprised when it’s not screaming anymore. As I drive out, the roads are clearer, the streets are quieter. We make it to the restaurant barely three minutes late. We say I love you like nothing happened.
I just want her to be okay. I wish for reassurance that she will be okay.
She walks out of the restaurant at five o clock, bottle of wine in her arms and grin on her face. She gives me a little wave as she makes her way to the car.
“Hello!” She exclaims cheerily, holding the bottle up. “I stayed longer than the others did so the boss gave me some wine as a thank you!”
“That’s lovely sweetheart.” I reply, my voice not quite as convincing as I would have hoped. We sit in silence for a moment as I drive back onto the road, the road that eight hours ago was nothing but a nightmare.
“I’m sorry about before.” She finally says as she takes her tie off. “Anxiety is a bitch.”