life with panic
It was the kind of moment where you wonder what, specifically, happened in your life to bring you to such lows.
Imagine: the lingering flavor of vomit. Your spine cushioned from the chilly rubberized floor of an airplane galley by a thin complimentary blanket. A plastic oxygen mask pinched to your nose; a long metal oxygen tank tucked to your flank like a dear friend. Already you have filled two complimentary barf bags and divested yourself of three layers of clothing. You are aisles away from your wool sweater. You have shared vast swatches of your backside, boxers, sports bra, and armpit with an onboard doctor, the unfortunates sitting alongside you, and anyone else who cared to crane to look. The fevers and sweats have long passed- now you are merely wretchedly cold. Your stomach aches with the exertions of its propulsory forces. Curious bathroom goers pause to gawk. You discover that stewardesses wear pantyhose with rubber crocs shaped like flats. Periodically said on-board doctor squats beside you to ensure your continued recovery.
Unfathomable distances separate you from the ground, plus a couple tons of metal and a few layers of suitcases for those with the funds to check baggage. You lacked the funds. Your baggage was carried on. Your baggage caught you fifteen minutes into a 3 hour and 45 minute flight from Chicago to Seattle, and there wasn’t shit you could do but grab another bag. The first bag you puked into you discreetly folded and sealed, slipped neatly beneath the seat in front of you, tucked in the folds of the wool sweater you yanked off before vomiting, slick with sweat. You hoped no one would notice; demurely you took the racing of your heart, the numbness of your lips as long as you could, gasping with your head between your knees and your ass crack generously bared to your seatmates. Then you were seized with the growing suspicion that you were very likely to beshit yourself; knowing yourself too dizzy to stand, you did it- you pressed the attendant needed light. Swiftly then your baggage was displayed to half the plane; oxygen mask affixed, a doctor called from his first class seat to attend to your coach emergency, your pulse and blood pressure enumerated, the racing of your heart attentively listened to and assessed- thus you became That Person, the asshole who had a panic attack on a plane, the thousand mile high club that no one wants to admit admission to.
You began to regret having graduated yourself from the service dog who used to accompany you. You discovered a certain sensibility to your previous habit of never stepping foot outside your bedroom. Stinking, cold, and hideously embarrassed, it occurred to you that the cost of personal growth was attendant public humiliation. So you rolled to your side, embraced your new friend the oxygen tank, and counted the minutes to landing, fervent with a renewed respect for grounding.
It will not always be this hard, you reminded yourself, as you were led by your elbow back to your seat for landing. People turned to stare, with fear and curiosity and a certain kind of awe. You are grateful for the kindness of the doctor and stewardesses. You are grateful for the return of breath and stable heart beat, for the teapot and the chipped seal mug in your cabinet, for the kitten and the kid in the home you are heading toward. Later, you brush your teeth and re-apply deodorant; later, you call your mother and your ex and recount your great adventure of miles-high humiliation. You survived it, like everything else, and this is what survival is- sealing the puke bag, brushing your teeth, and moving on slowly, trying not to shit yourself.