Panic: Part One by Ben Oakes

You know better than anyone that there’s no use telling yourself to stop panicking if you’re already panicking.
Let the panic play out, don’t let it control you.
Go with the flow.
As soon as you can, get your hands on a cup of water and gulp.
Down down down.
Icy cold water washing away the pain from your chest to your stomach until the fire fades away.
It might not feel like it, but you are the leader.

Over-rehearsed monologues stream round my head as I feel my chest cramp up.
Like menstrual cramps but worse as you feel you’re losing the ability to breathe.
And there’s nothing more frightening than that.

I walk around the club looking for my friends but I cannot find them.
Have they left me?
Where’d they go?
Shit, man, why am I always the one in these situations?
Outside, yes, outside.
For a tab.
Not me, them.
They smoke.
I don’t.
But right now, I wish I did.
Maybe I will.
Come on now, concentrate.

The bouncer smiles and I smile back because I might be panicking like hell right now but I’m not rude.
There’s Adam and Luke.
Right at least there’s two people.
‘Mate,’ they smile, ‘we found you.’
Arseholes. Yeah, did a good job finding me standing outside in the rain.
With a cigarette.
Can I have one?
Never mind.
‘We’re going home now.’
Were they going to leave me here?
By myself?
ALONE?
I walk with them and hop into the taxi they’ve booked.
I hope this guy isn’t a murderer or a rapist. Does he look funny?
I try to get a good look but then fail.
How can you tell anyway, what people are like?
I can never tell.

Counting. Counting usually works.
One, two three-
He turned the wrong corner.
Hey, I don’t live here.
Where is he taking me?
Four, five six, seven-
Yeah I really don’t live here and neither does Adam or Luke.
Eight, nine, ten, eleven-
He’s the taxi driver, not you.
You are not paid to know where you are going.
But you are paying to be taken home.
Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen-
Shit I missed out twelve,
Come on hurry up. Traffic lights.
Are they stuck?
Must be stuck.
Pieces of shit technology why can’t we go when no one is crossing?
Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen-

‘Tom!’
Luke is shouting at me and I feel sick.
I’m going to be sick.
I open my eyes and can see all too well the bottom of my shoes, sticky from the alcohol and marked by the night.
And I passed out again, well that’s just great.
At least I know I’m gonna be okay now.

Where was I at?
Nineteen, twenty, twenty-one,
No I don’t need anything. I’ll be fine.
Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four,
Honestly. Ten minutes and I’ll be fine.
Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven-
Stop crowding me I need space.
I’m the one having a panic attack, I don’t need you panicking too.
Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty-
Home.