Carpools. Whatever responsibility they take from you in terms of time-on-road, they drop back on you in burden-for-others. The half hour stint in rush hour is often fraught with excitement: Thanks to the idiots who use their commute to act out Grand Theft Auto and the crashes they leave behind, or the excitement of a car bursting into flames directly in front of me. Also, the ever-present excitement of will-this-17-year-old-car-make-it? I pray every morning that if I’m to break down, let me break down after I drop the boys off. Of course, it would be a bonus not to break down along Fulton Road, or Hood Road, as I call it, where the burned-out blackened crusts of houses and graffiti scream the warning: You’re not in Kansas anymore.
I may be a mite stressed as I do my leg of the carpool.
The morning began no differently than any other. The car was tomb silent, as it always is. No matter how I try to convince my son to make light conversation with our passenger, he refuses. Both refuse. They are in their iPhones. I am sort of alone. Except I can neither sing badly nor hyperventilate if I’m so inclined.
My heart decides to beat faster. Just like that. My heart, without permission from me and in response to nothing circumstantial, begins to gallop, and I’m driving and I’m thinking, what the… I’m thinking things I’ll leave out here because in a crisis I’m not thinking dag nabbit or dang or gee whiz. I have thirty minutes of Nascar rush hour ahead of me, uncomfortable company in my back seat, and I can’t feel my arms…
I begin to rehearse how I’ll tell Luke to take over the wheel, should I pass out on I-71.
I don’t want to scare him, just to raise his DEFCON level a bit. Nothing sounds anything short of ludicrous, so I trash the idea. I debate between the fast lane, which will make this hell end sooner, assuming I don’t get pulled over or pass out, and the slow lane which will afford me an easier turn off, in the likely event that I do.
Wheezing threatens. I am drowning a bit in the car because I can’t seem to get enough air to go into my lungs. I take deep, slow breaths, praying that God will let me hang on until we get to school. Then I’ll give myself permission to hyperventalate, to cry, to pass out. I decide to stay in the middle lane and keep praying.
Praying as we snake through Hood Street. Praying as we close in on the school. My arms feel a bit more alive, and I think, I’ve licked this. Amen. The boys have no idea what I’m holding at bay. We are an arm’s length from one another physically, yet I feel a universe between us.
I drop them off.
I thank God.
Panic attacks can’t always be thought down. I know this. But this was a victory for me. It never materialized fully, and I went on with my day, as if I’m a completely normal person.
*Inspired by a fellow blogger whose writing often makes me smile and who also has panic attacks. I suggested he fictionalize one and see how it goes. This was meant to be my own Experiential Fiction piece, but I changed my mind and left it. I didn’t want to forget the truth before I set it to fiction. New to the panic attack scene, I’m navigating a life that involves personal (very personal) earthquakes with no seismic warning system.