Walking to my car I was so engrossed with my phone that I didn’t even realize I had arrived until I bumped into it. I unlocked the door and continued my texting conversation without missing a beat.
That’s when I saw a shadow.
It was just a moment of darkness and then the light returned.
Immediately I locked the doors and started my car. I set down my phone and returned to reality.
I was in a parking garage.
As I drove down the ramp toward the exit, a tiny little whisper entered my mind.
“What if that shadow was someone in the parking garage about to rob me?”
Good thing I locked the doors.
Inserting the parking ticket into the machine, I exit the garage and wind my way through downtown to the freeway.
Time to get my dance on.
“If you feel like happiness is the truth…”
Not this song AGAIN! I snap off the radio in frustration and enter the freeway.
Some quiet is a good idea.
“What if that shadow was someone in my car?”
Wait…WHAT? Stop it.
“What if they are waiting until we get far away from the city to stick a knife to my throat?”
NO! Stop it.
“What if I never see my children again?”
AHHH!!!! Stop it!!!
The thoughts start spiraling down into a deep, dark place filled with regret, fear and panic.
Sneaking looks into my rearview mirror becomes too scary and I almost pull over on the freeway and run away from my car.
Stories I’ve heard of women being raped and left mutilated on the side of the road start playing in my head. Every image of abuse and death that I’ve tried to suppress start playing like some absurd, grotesque slide show of my impending demise.
“How could you be so stupid to not check the car?”
There it is.
The reason it all started.
I didn’t check the car. I paid no attention to my surroundings.
I almost roll down the window to chuck it, but realize it might save me if I am indeed sharing the car with a murderer hiding in the third row. He could easily be under that giant karate duffel bag back there.
Don’t look back. Don’t look back. Don’t look back.
I look back and it seems the duffel bag has been moved from where I remember seeing it last.
I turn the music on and off for several minutes trying to decide which is worse, hearing my attacker or being surprised when he jumps up to kill me.
Every passing car I search their faces to see if they are signaling me that they see someone in the back.
I swear I can feel pressure in my back, like someone leaning on my seat.
Now I’m crying.
My poor kids…would they know how much I loved them? Would they remember all the little things I did for them? Would they forever be haunted by the memory of me leaving them to see a play?
How could I be so selfish to go see a play without my family?
What is wrong with me?
The freeway exit is ahead and I’m now convinced this is the moment my attacker is waiting to pounce. He has enjoyed watching me panic. I can almost hear his breath.
I exit and stop at a red light.
Should I run? I could just leave the car right here and run for it. The gas station is right there…
I turn on the interior lights and look around the car.
The duffel bag is against the back door and nobody is behind it.
Light turns green and I drive the rest of the way home in a daze.
In just two days I am flying on an airplane without my family.
I am headed to Florida to stay with a very dear friend and her beautiful family. It is an early birthday present from her and I’m so grateful.
The fears that spiral in my mind have gone into hyper drive. Untruths are being yelled in a voice so loud that it’s hard to hear anything else. I’ve been tempted to cancel…to crumble and fall into a heap so I can feel safe.
I am going. When I am quiet I can picture the beach. I can see their happy faces and almost feel their hugs. The break from my life that I so desperately crave is just within my reach.
Fear feels like such a part of my skin that I can’t seem to shake it.
It is following me as I count down the days and is clouding everything I do this week. I’m not going to share all the horrible, ugly things that keep surfacing.
Trust me. It’s stupidly dreadful.
I am going.
Yesterday my sister heard my panic and did something amazing. As an early birthday present, she took me shopping and bought me a heap of adorable clothes that fit. I’m more grateful to her than I can even express. Feeling better about how I look is helping me to shake some of the fear loose.
My kids are going to be fine. Daddy and grandma have fun things planned. They will be loved up and safe. This is their chance to miss me and I them.
Fear and guilt are my two favorite punishments that I live in daily.
They are making me so tired.
My body and mind are craving this trip.
I am going.
See you soon.