Part 9: The Daily Herald
A most excellent kind of panic attack. If you’re going to have one, have one like this.
I’m leaving work after the first shift a little after five and the time changed a few weeks ago so night has been slinking in for a good half hour. I exit the building through the back door and see the sky to the west is a million different colors: black, indigo, blue, purple, pink, gold, white. It’s so beautiful it hurts. But it keeps hurting and I wonder if the pain is from something else, like the cold biting at my neck where I forgot to bring a scarf. Like the knowing how close you live but how far apart we are.
I walk on and the pain only gets deeper, only gets sharper, until my breath is coming in short bursts, barely filling half my lungs. Oh god I want to stop or pass out or die or something but its Sunday and the streets are almost empty and I’m sure in the morning my body would be mangled and robbed so I keep walking for five more blocks while the fear seizes me completely—
And then it evaporates.
And then I’m back to drinking too much coffee and buzzing so badly it’s like I did a couple hard lines in the bathroom of Bar Deville. Not that I’ve ever done that. Must make analogies less specific! And one day I will but right now my phone’s going off and I’ve got some place to be. It’s Graham who has agreed to meet me at a café near my apartment to talk about things because he needs a game plan or something.
I don’t like this café, but I don’t like many cafes so it’s nothing personal against this one. Actually this one is better than most because it’s mainly neighborhood people and construction workers getting coffee instead of the usual flannel-clad crowd working on their Mac Books and not tipping the staff because they’re “poor” because they have all these loans from liberal arts school. For christ’s sake.
Graham is already here sitting at a small table against the exposed brick walls. He’s got a drink in front of him and looks up immediately when I walk in but doesn’t wave or anything, just looks at me in that sort-of nervous, sort-of intense way he does. I sit down and he says Hey and slides a newspaper over to me before I can say anything. My breath gets caught in my chest when I see the headline on page 4, the local news page:
Bicycle Collision Leads to Two Arrests in Bridgeview
You must be kidding me. That fucking girl in a beret! I snatch the paper to read the rest of the article which goes like this:
Two Bridgeview residents, Ana Kasic and Michael Devin, both 23, were involved in a bicycle accident late Friday night that turned violent and led to the arrests of both Kasic and Devin. The crash, which took place on 18th Street just west of Racine, appears to have stemmed from some personal, possibly romantic, conflict between the two. It is still unclear how the collision occurred because both parties lay blame on the opposite side. Devin says Kasic pushed him from his bicycle, while Kasic maintains that Devin harassed her while she was riding and caused his own fall. Law enforcement got involved when two officers noticed the pair arguing loudly in the middle of the westbound lane. The argument seems to have turned physical only after the officers arrived on the scene. Devin suffered a bloody nose from the altercation, and Kasic had scrapes from the crash. Both were released from custody within hours and neither side pressed charges.
I look up at Graham who’s staring at me, waiting for me to say something, waiting for me to explain myself. I know he’s fixating on Michael’s name. If it had been anyone else! But it wasn’t. It was you. You and your—
But before I can finish having that thought, the one I’ve had so many times it’s become like a heartbeat, I see my landlord’s truck pull up to the stoplight outside. He’s on his way to my place there’s no question about that and I have the money! I’ve got to give it to him! I tell Graham I will be right back—right back, I promise!—I just have to do one quick thing. I think I said half of this on my way to the door because the next second my feet are pounding against the cement to catch up with the truck.