Certain moments in life should be analyzed. I’d go as far to say that every moment in life should be examined, and maybe that’s why I was in that position—sitting on the ground, holding on to my face like it’d fall apart if I didn’t, pressing in on my eyes because I’m at work and I shouldn’t be crying. But I couldn’t stop crying. I was like a broken water pipe, and the more I tried to gain composure, the puffier my face became, and the redder I got, the more I cried.
But it wasn’t just crying. I remember sitting there and telling myself to pull it together, and I began to breathe in, like I do in mediation, but my breath was broken by sobs. The instructor tells us to focus on the breath, on the rise and fall and the slits in your nose, but I couldn’t even do that. And all the while, I know that there’s a timer out there, because it’s morning shift and I’m the only server, and they’ll get to wondering where I’m at.
Panic is like an avalanche. Things pile up; little harmless rocks become concussions.
It was a normal Tuesday morning. I had left my bike downtown and wanted to catch a taxi. But the taxi never showed, so I drove to work. I was 15 minutes late, but I called to let them know, which is what you’re supposed to do when unforeseen circumstances happen.
I got in and hurried to open. I was in a fine mood. The owner, Greg, this German ex-marine who scares the shit out of me, was around. And I got this idea to talk to him about a position I saw on Craigslist for a PR person for the company. So I’m opening, thinking up of a way to sell myself to this guy, making sure that the restaurant is put together perfectly, and he comes up to me with this big grin and tells me that I’m on my second strike now because I was late: “So next time something happens, you’re out.”
Maybe I take things too personally. I’m not sure, but I nodded my head, feeling fine, and turned to finish my work, and then, while I’m laying out these menus, I get this creeping feeling, and it slowly works on me until tears are on the edge of my eyes and my hands are shaking. And then these thoughts come up, too. It’s like a dominos effect.
What was I thinking, I don’t know—all right, don’t mess up again. That’s fine.. Hell, he’s not going to want to hire me now. Ya know, the manager told me that if I was late to call and I wouldn’t get in trouble, and now the owner tells me this. Everybody is late all the fucking time. Second strike my ass. The first strike was bullshit, too. He caught me smoking, but my manager told me I could. I hate this place. Why does this happen to me? This is so unfair. My last job fired me too for being late, it was just like this. I try and do well. What if I lose my job? I can’t do anything right.
Bam. Tears. And all the while these thoughts are piling up, one on top of the other. Some related, some not, all bouncing down to pound on my head. So I rush off to the bathroom, splash some water on my face and tell myself to calm down.
See, I’ve had anxiety at work before. I remember hosting at this one job in the fall and gripping the wooden stand because my hands wouldn’t stop shaking, but I fought the tears that time. Went to the bathroom and told myself that one must function while at work.
But this time I was overwhelmed.
And now I’m upset that I’m upset.
The floor is almost set up now, I’ve just got a few more things left to do. But I can’t seem to compose myself enough to get any of it done. I’m so bothered by Greg and bosses like him, and I’m so sick of working so hard and not getting noticed. I’ve got half the mind to walk out then and there.
I go downstairs to put up my stuff and get ready for the shift. I’m blotting my eyes, blowing my nose, talking myself down, and finally—I stop crying. I can breathe.
I’m about to go back up when one of the cooks comes around and sees me. His name is Rasheem and he goes, “Damn girl, are you okay?”
I told him I was. He told me I looked like his little girl when she was crying, my face all red and puffy. This triggers me again. I’m aggravated that I’m physically affected. Another cook rounds the corner; he’s looking for me and says that they want me upstairs. “Are you okay?” He takes a look at me. “You are not okay…”
“Is there a table?”
There wasn’t, they just wanted me, probably because there’s still some work to be done and I’ve been off the floor nearly ten minutes now. He leaves and Rasheem gets me some water. Now I’m sobbing. Tears are pouring out and I can’t catch my breath.
Now I’m thinking, what the fuck is wrong with me? I’m highly embarrassed and I feel broken.
Then Greg comes downstairs.
And having him seeing me like that, sitting there, convulsing and crying, made me convulse and cry more. He seems to realize that he triggered something, and I begin to apologize, because I know how this all looks.
But it wasn’t just him, it was everything.
He told me not to worry—that he wasn’t going to hold this against me, that my strikes and this instance are unrelated—and that maybe I should go home. He told me he’d be back in ten minutes, see if I can gain composure.
Sure enough, I can’t. By this time, it’s just mind over matter. And my mind was too frayed to do anything. Rasheem comes back, so does a dishwasher, another “Damn girl.”
They tell me to go in the cooler, that it’d help me. The bartender comes down, tells me to breathe, that we’re going to have a fun day and make money. The cold didn’t cool me down, and nobody would leave me alone, and soon enough Greg comes back in and tells me to take the day off. “We’ll start fresh when you come back.”
I go outside and smoke a cigarette. I start to walk back and I feel like I’m in a daze, and I’m walking back trying to figure now just how in the hell did that happen?
It’s like all of my thoughts turned against me. And walking along Bay Street I started crying again. Like a broken water pipe. I don’t even know why I’m crying anymore. I get to my car and realize that I can’t drive, so I plop down on some grass and lie there and try to let it all surround me and calm down. But even when I’m calm, tears push out.
Eventually I make it home, and I smoked a lot of weed and put on a sitcom and cried myself to sleep.
I woke up feeling very removed from the experience. It’s hard to recollect it, and even harder to convey the raw emotion that I was feeling at the time.