Living Too Close to the Edge
I had run from Michael the Archangel in 1973 and was living with my rescuer for about a year. At first, I felt relieved and somewhat settled. I knew I had some post traumatic stress symptoms. For instance, when my boyfriend attempted to put his arm around me, I’d duck. But all in all, I thought life had finally got a little sweeter, a little less volatile. Then the following happened:
A year passed, and my two children and I were still living with the guy I met at work…the one who rescued me from Michael the Archangel. We just sort of settled in, pretending to be a family. Then, as fate would have it, I got invited to a Tupperware party.
I really disliked Tupperware parties. Oh, I loved all the little squares and rounds with their matching, color-coordinated lids. I just disliked the parties. I always felt guilty when the hostess looked me in the eye and told me how many points my friend would get if I would just host a party of my own. I also hated the drive home, thinking about what a disaster my kitchen cupboards were, and how, if I only had a spare $327, I could reorganize my entire food supply.
Weaving my way in and out of the typical Los Angeles area work traffic, I checked my watch. I hoped my friend Theresa would already be there when I arrived. I knew that she would be the only person I knew at the party. What I didn’t know was that after this particular Tupperware party, it would be years before I would go anywhere alone again.
The music I usually enjoyed blaring from the car radio was starting to get on my nerves, so I flipped it off. The normal traffic noise seemed louder than usual. I checked to see if my windows were up. I began thinking of all the excuses I could use to leave the party early. My husband is ill. I’m not feeling so great myself. I need to help my son with his kindergarten homework. Our pet pig got stuck in the dishwasher.
By the time I pulled up to the house, I had my excuses in order, but I was hoping that seeing my girlfriend Theresa would help me forget about my nervousness and I wouldn’t have to use any of them. I walked into the house and put my coat and purse where I could get to them quickly.
The women were clustered in little groups of two or three. Theresa was nowhere to be found, and no one made a move to try to include me in their conversations. I felt invisible and alone.
I got up and looked out the window. Where was Theresa? What’s wrong with me tonight, anyway? I began to imagine myself flippantly tossing out one of my excuses and casually walking across the floor, picking up my coat and purse, and heading out the door. “Ta-ta! Hope to see you gals again soon!” Instead, I felt glued to the chair. I was positive that everyone in that room would know I was lying and give me a silent glare. I finally got up the courage and mentioned to a woman sitting next to me that I had to go, grabbed my coat and purse, and almost flew out the front door.
“THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
As I got into my car, I started to feel as if I couldn’t breathe. My thoughts raced through my brain so fast it seemed as if I was interrupting myself. My palms were slippery on the steering wheel. I imagined myself passing out.
The traffic on Hawthorne Boulevard had gotten worse. With each red light, the feelings became more intense. My arms and chest began to feel numb. I wondered if I was having a heart attack, at twenty-three-years old. The urge to jump out of the car and run down the street screaming for help was so strong that looking back, I don’t know how I kept from it.
I managed to make it home and got into bed, pulling the covers over my head. My breathing slowed, and eventually, I got to sleep. The next morning, I hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and lay in bed for a few moments, trying to get my bearings. I had a vague feeling of unease. Did I have a bad dream? No. Is something wrong with one of the kids? No. Oh yeah, last night! With that thought came the memory of the nightmarish rush home from the party. As I replayed it all in my mind, my breath began to accelerate. Then my hands went numb. I froze. I had walked too close to the edge one too many times. This time, there was no regaining my footing. I was in free-fall, on my way to being certifiable. I just didn’t know it yet.