Sometimes escape is necessary. That icy grip in my chest, the angry butterflies in my stomach, and the barrage of voices, all my own, screaming so loud I can barely see. The office is thick with the hum of machines, the staff room echos with inane chatter, and today more than any other, escape is what I need.
So I go down. Down into the belly of the beast and find a quiet corner. The bench is uncomfortable but I am perched in such a way that all the tension seeps out and I am truly relaxed for the first time in weeks. There are no windows which I first thought would be stifling, but soon the automatic light shuts off and the gentle pool from under the door is enough. It’s calm. It’s comforting.
I take out my lunch and quietly graze, headphones on, music lapping at my soul. It’s about half way through when it starts as I knew it would. A black hole opens up behind my navel and I start to wear thin. My limbs sag, my eyelids heavy, and I stop raising the sandwich to my mouth, instead letting it rest in my lap. The leech drains me for all I’m worth, leaving me a shell, a ragdoll disguarded in the corner, and no one would think to look for me here.
I don’t move, can’t move, for what feels like an eternity; my vision swims but I am painfully present for every second. My breath is laboured, thought behind every inch, heart pounding in my ears with the force of it. I start to wonder if my body will ever be my own again as I reach a tendril of will down my arm in the vain hope that it will twitch. I just need to see the time, know my deadline, see what I have left. A finger taps and my phone screen ignites; the hour draws nearer.
I summon all my might and drag one leg from the bench, hitting the floor with a loud thud, the light blaring at the movement. I scrape the other from its perch and twist awkwardly, determined not to fall forward, I don’t have time for a trip to the floor. The black hole protests and I remain here a moment longer, head tilted back against the wall and all I can think is that I’ll need to summon the energy to smooth my hair back down before I leave. Energy I definitely do not have.
I feel the leech begin to fill and I count down in my head. Twice. As the final digit rings in my mind I hang myself on my bones and stack them one on top of the other. My breath heavy with the effort I take a moment to marvel at this feat of strength, quietly wincing at the task ahead. I shuffle, one foot at a time, dragging my meatcage to the door. I close my eyes and breathe deep, plastering on that mask I wear so well before I step through.