Not an Odalisque

Posts Tagged ‘panic attack

NaNoWriMo Day Three

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I have 5848 words! Even better than that, I have four characters and the beginning of a plot. I’m feeling a little uncharitable to my exes, as I look at the monstrous character I have created of them, but we’ll see if I can make him a bit more sympathetic as the novel progresses. Otherwise we won’t be able to appreciate his pain when we torture him.

Katie, my main character, is having a bit of a rough time. I’ll share the worst part of her day with you, and admit that this is hardly fictionalised– it happened to me last week. Forgive the lack of polish, at 2,000 words a day, what can you expect?

The bus stopped about two hundred yards from the station. After a few moments, when the engine stopped and the lights went out, the passengers looked at each other enquiringly. Two people made a snap decision to walk the rest of the way, grabbed their rucksacks and clomped down the stairs. Everyone else shifted uneasily and waited. Katie began to feel rather silly, hanging around on a bus to take her a couple of hundred yards. Everyone sat in silence, evidently wondering why they were delayed, and alert for sounds from downstairs. Finding the situation ridiculous, Katie decided to go and find out what was going on.

Downstairs, the couple with the rucksacks were standing in the wheelchair area. The driver was absent and the doors were closed. The passengers downstairs were are silent as those above, and the light straining in through the grime on the windows was perceptibly dimmer. “Does anyone know where he’s gone?” Katie asked the group, but no one replied with more than a shrug or a shake of the head. Katie leant against the luggage rack beside the door. The driver would have to come back. It seemed suddenly stuffy, down here, and the ceiling felt very low. She unwrapped her scarf from around her neck, where it seemed to be pulling too tight, but the sensation remained. In the heat Katie unbuttoned her coat. Someone shifted in their seat, further down the bus in the dimness, and Katie was suddenly aware of shadowy presences all the way down the bus. Total strangers. She knew nothing about them, their thoughts, or their potential actions. Everyone was so still and quiet, she wondered how long their unresponsiveness could continue. Would they sit here quietly while night fell? What would make them react? She didn’t look up at them again, but every grey patch she saw took on a threatening aspect. She didn’t want to be here, it was too small, too hot, she could feel sweat gathering and tugged at her scarf again, except that it wasn’t there. She couldn’t breathe. She needed to get out. She pushed her right hand against the “In emergency push door” sticker, but the door didn’t budge. She lifted her other hand and pushed with both, but the strength seemed to have gone from her arms and the doors maintained their position without a quiver. Why didn’t somebody help her? They must be able to see me struggling, how much I need to get out. All the passengers facing me are just sitting there, watching and mute. They don’t want me to get out. They want me to stay. What are they going to do to me?

Just as Katie made a strangled noised and threw herself bodily against the doors, they opened so that she tumbled out onto the street. When she had righted herself and took two gulps of cold air, she noticed the bus driver standing next to her with a slightly worried expression. He was clutching several bags of change. “Keep your hair on love, I was only gone a minute” he said.

Katie became aware of how crazed she must look. “I wanted to get out. I think I’ll walk from here.” she said.

Katie walked very slowly to the station, enjoying the light and the cold air as people bustled past her. She was suddenly very cold.

Armed with a ticket, Katie found a bench on platform nine to share with two old ladies and their shopping. She flopped gracelessly onto her seat and tried to understand what had happened on the bus. She must have seemed so ridiculous. But now, she couldn’t seem to think straight, and felt rather like sitting on the floor and bursting into tears. She didn’t know why the grubby floor, littered with sweet wrappers and chewing gum, seemed more inviting than the bench. Perhaps it would be quieter down there. The station seemed to be invading her: the announcements, the comings and goings of trains, the cold wind, the stale coffee smell, and the women next to her discussing the comparative virtues of Primark and TK Maxx. She swallowed and realised that her mouth was papery dry, she desperately needed water.

As Katie was fumbling in her purse for change, her train drew up. It was a short train, and crowds formed at each door, preventing passengers from alighting. She found herself unexpectedly in the middle of one of these crowds, being pushed as people tried to create room for passengers to get out and jockey for position in close proximity to the doors. Once on, she gestured for two people to go ahead of her. They walked two or three paces up the aisle and stood there, blocking the thoroughfare, while they removed magazines and ipods from their bags, undulated out of their coats, folded them and stored various items in the rack overhead. People behind Katie were craning their necks to ascertain the cause of the delay, and those still outside were pushing, fearing that they wouldn’t get onto the train before the doors closed. Eventually the two of them sat down. Katie, moving quickly, passed them and chose in the first empty seat facing her. She clutched her bag to her chest, and gave a relieved sigh to be out of the bustle and no longer in anybody’s way.

There was a blockage behind her, though, caused by a looming black shape on her left. Katie was sitting in its shadow. She looked up and saw a man staring down at her. Katie asked if there was something wrong.

“I was about to sit down there, when you just steamed in and took the seat!” He was very irate.

“Oh,” said Katie. She looked around at the three other seats available nearby and said “I can move, if it is important to you.” The man said nothing, but continued to stare at her, anger twisting his face.

Katie stood up, avoiding everyone’s eyes she sat down two rows behind, glowing with humiliation. The man took a seat across the aisle from the one she had vacated. Katie sat and stared at the back of the man’s head, thoughts bouncing around her head: had she been unwittingly rude? Why could she not learn the rules? other people shoved and trod on her toes, played loud music, shouted details of their personal lives into mobile phones, drank beer, leered and smoked pot on trains. Why was she, merely seeking a seat, a target? Having fought for the seat, why didn’t he take it? What a futile attack! She would show him her tears, and induce some guilt. But he would get defensive, she knew, and justify himself, or think that she was emotional, overwrought, a madwoman, which, to be fair, she possibly was. She closed her eyes and tried to hold it in.

Written by Not an Odalisque

November 3, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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