Chapter Eleven

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My panic attack eventually turned into a very low moment. I lost track of time, and it felt like my body was trying to move through some thick, impenetrable fog.  Eventually, the fog started to thin and I realized I was still on the floor. My limbs felt like lead as I struggled to my feet and went to my bathroom. All the sweating and crying made me feel gross. Very slowly, I took off my clothes and tossed them into a sad hump on the floor before running the shower.

My shower was long and I allowed the nearly burning water to soak into my tense muscles.  It was cathartic and the chaotic zigzag of my mind started to still. The reality of being on Baking Beasts was pressing against my skull, pushing beaneath my fingernails and sloughing off my skin. Whether or not I felt ready, someone clearly thought I should be on the show, and so I'd have to be on it. I showered until the steam was nearly thick enough to taste before turning off the taps and getting out of the shower.

After drying off, I sat on my bed in my towel and stared at the straight jacket white wall. I felt like I was in some sort of asylum of my own making. I had freaked out for nearly an hour and I felt exhausted. I'm too old to be this fucked up. What am I going to do if I have a panic attack on the show?

My phone started to vibrate, and I fell out of my mental fog. I hurried over to it, and saw it was Trace calling. My heart did a weird little flip where it swelled and faltered. I wanted to hear his voice but I couldn't let him know I was coming out of an attack.

But the want to hear his voice won out. So, I took a deep breath and answered the phone, drawing my cell up against my ear and willing my voice to come out strong and even.

"Hi," I said softly and my voice cracked right through.

Trace's warm, honey like voice was suddenly filled concern. "Woah, Darius. Are you okay?"

"Yeah," I lied. "I just—I was cutting some onions. What're you up to?"

"Nothing really, I was just on lunch break. I was thinking I could come over and we could have lunch together?" Trace and I working so close together meant that we could meet up for lunch. Sometimes, in my apartment. But, Trace was never presumptuous and always asked if we were on for lunch.

My thoughts started to zigzag again. I wanted to tell Trace about my anxiety, maybe this was the sign I was waiting for. He would come over, and he'd ask me what was wrong, I'd tell him, and he'd understand... Maybe, I could just tell him the truth...Tell him that everything made me nervous and I was upset and that a hug from him would go a long way to making me feel better. A part of me imagined Trace being okay with all my flaws and understanding me in a way no one else could.

But, what if he didn't understand at all?

"I'm sorry," I mumbled. "Today isn't really a good day."

"Oh, damn." There was a long pause and I could hear the sound of my heart breaking. "Alright. Maybe tomorrow or next week?"

My flight was in three days. "Uh, maybe tomorrow?" I said, instead of telling him about the show.

"Darius, if something's wrong you can tell me. You..." Trace struggled. "You sound like you've been crying."

"I—I—haven't."

Trace sighed like he didn't want to press the issue. "Okay. Well, maybe we'll have lunch tomorrow?"

"Maybe." I said quietly.  "I'm sorry for sounding weird. I just—I just don't want you to think I'm acting like this on purpose. I'm not."

His voice was softer, and quiet. "I don't think that of you, Darius."

My voice cracked again but I felt like I had to explain myself. "I'm sorry I'm like this."

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