The first time we met, it was in our small town's public library. He looked trouble then. The first time I saw him, he caused me trouble. And until the end, he would. Together with a wisp of misery and some sort of strange addiction.
So it was in the middle of August, just after four in the afternoon, and the weather was still kind of warm. The last week of summer vacation. I was in there looking for some books to borrow to read the night away, since I had run out of Ambien and my insomnia could be really bad without my prescriptions. My dad was yet to buy me my fill the next day.
Anyway, I was walking down the narrow aisle between the shelves, looking left and right for books that might catch my attention. I had always been a sucker of horror books, so those were what I was hoping to find.
That particular day was one of the rarest days that I go out of my room during vacation or weekends. My anxiety rarely permitted me to get out of bed and live like a normal functioning human being. Most of the days, I feel like disappearing and just be gone, to end all the nonsense I am feeling. If only my best friend hadn't literally dragged me out of the house, I wouldn't be where I was.
That day was one lucky day. I met him that day. One lucky day indeed.
I stopped in my tracks in front of the fifth shelf of books by my right. I think I found what I was looking for on the top row of books. The book's title was "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner. A book about someone who happened to be a namesake. That's why it got my attention. From the looks of it, I guess it was somewhat dark or goth even so I reached out a hand to take it off the shelf.
But another hand was already grabbing it from the other side.
For a couple of seconds we had a light struggle. Eventually, the person on the other side of the shelf gave up and let go of the book, and since I was trying to grab it from him (or her) with force, I stumbled back a step because of the impact from my grab. When I peered through the little space that was created from the absence of the book from its place, I saw a boy on the other side.
He was no taller than me for at least a couple of inches, or so I guess. He was bending down a bit so he could see me eye to eye though. He had wavy and sandy hair that hung over his right eye and his eyes, they were grey like the storm. His stare was too cold it almost sent shivers down my spine. He was looking straight through my eyes, like he was searching for my soul inside of this empty shell that made up me.
Suddenly, a side of his lips twitched slowly into a side grin, a grin so cold and pure of madness it literally made my heart beat faster than its normal pace. His lips parted when he noticed the changes in my facial expression and he mouthed something inaudibly. I didn't hear it but I understood it.
What he said triggered my panic attack.
I hastily put the book back to its place, feeling nauseous, held my head between my hands and crouched to the floor, trembling terribly. I couldn't breathe, like the air had quickly escaped out of my lungs. I was palpitating. I felt like I was being smothered by tons of weight.
I frantically looked around but the boy was nowhere in sight already.
I didn't know what to do. I wanted to roll over the carpeted floor but thinking the opposite the last minute. I wanted to scream but it seemed like no voice was coming out of my throat and my mouth felt too dry. I started crying. I was afraid. I was helpless.
Dad, where are you?
Had I known something—or should I say someone—would set in the attack on me that day, I would've taken some Celexa. That was the med my psychiatrist prescripted me for my anxiety and panic disorders. But since I was completely aware Dad was hardly making us enough to get through everyday, I was minimizing my intake down to every other day, when it should have been everyday. Dad never knew and I'd never tell him.
Panic attacks occur to me without any kind of hint or even reason. All I knew was, each time there is something that I feel like threatening my safety, I get the attack. It had been that way since I left the first home I knew of five years ago.
There was only one thing that entered my mind when I prayed for salvation—calling Noah, my best friend. He was also in the library with me so it should be no problem.
But before I pressed the dial tone on my phone's screen, I hesitated for a second. Noah had always told me not to think twice on calling whenever I needed him. My trust in him never faltered but then again, what if I was already a nuisance? An annoyance?
The shaking of my body won't stop. In the end, I called him.
"Noah..." even my voice was trembling. "I'm-I'm sorry. I, uh... I..."
"Don't hang up, I'm coming!" his voice was stern. The next thing I heard were loud footsteps echoing through the library and his heavy breathing as he ran looking for me.
"Emily!" He called for me in a tone between whispering and screaming. When he found me, he didn't hesitate and just took three big steps to get to me and immediately wrapped me in his arms. "It's okay, it's okay. You're okay. Ssshh..." he whispered to my ear as he carressed my back. "I'm here now, Emily. Everything's going to be fine. It's okay."
I continued sobbing on Noah's chest for the next five minutes or so until I gradually calmed down. When I started to rise on my feet, he carefully assisted me and never let go. He tucked away several strands of brown hair that covered my face and kissed me on my forehead. "You feel better now?"
I managed to nod a little but I was still mildly shaking. This phase would last for the next couple of minutes and I would slowly feel better then.
When Noah knew that I could already handle it, he suggested that it was time for us to go home. About the books, when I complained I hadn't found anything yet, he told me he'd buy me the new dystopian book I so badly wanted but couldn't afford and would give it to me when he got his allowance. I didn't want him to but he insisted.
As he opened the car door for me, I looked back over my shoulder to the public library again. The idea made me feel sick and throwing up but I held it all back. I think I would never, ever forget what that guy had told me.
© Amber Colby, 2018. All rights reserved.