“You never shut the …”
“What are you on about?” I scream.
I have had enough. The never-ending struggle. Surrounded, on duty, twenty four seven.
I ride a horror wave of despair that undulates, heaves, thrusts, leaving me nauseous. In this two bed flat I’m one of five, but I’m alone. I wear the weighted hat of responsibility. It pummels me to stagnation. Disciplinarian, toastmaster, cheer squad. Lover.
It doesn’t stop, as I paint with the kids. Background noise, a constant. Fuggy air, it never clears. Mid-winter, in a flat.
“You didn’t close the …”
“Shut the EFF up,” I tell him. Master of the house. Head honcho at work. Now, at home. All the time.
My three jobs down to the one I can do from home. I can barely deal.
One shared computer. Me trying to work, himself sorting rosters and options for takeaway, or home deliveries, or some other way to bring in income. The office space now a war zone.
I need to escape. Spiders in my brain climb walls, thread-like fingers invade crevices, electrify neurons, send me psycho. I’m pushed from the inside out.
I retreat to the only room that locks. The loo. I perch. Feel walls press. Hands to my ears, I block external sound, and free my soul to scream.
A banshee cry bounces, echoes inside my skull. A giant squats on my chest.
Another panic attack. Second one this week. The shift toward insanity, the slippery slide.
“Leave me alone,” I whisper.
“Mummy, mummy. I need poo-poo,” cries Clara.
I squeeze my head between vices masquerading as hands, to minimal effect. I want to pulverise, obliterate.
“Fiona, you need to …”
I breathe deeply. And again. Force oxygen past gritted teeth. And again. Air wheezes through lungs, empties into stomach. And again. Chest relaxes, arms loosen. Again. Eyes open. I can do this.
Stand. Pull hair back.
“Mummy. Gotta go now.”
I open the door. Clara rushes past, undies half off.
I feel Simon’s concern.
“You left the browser open,” he said.
“Red Balloon. I saw. Oh babe, to think of me in the midst of this …”
“I’ve always wanted to drive a V8.”
“Sorry babe. We can’t afford it. Next year, maybe?” I disappoint.
“Sure. Sure. No worries. Coffee?”
“That’d be good.”
What I can’t say. I bought that gift six months ago. Today I requested a refund.
Four laps at Bathurst vs survival. [412 words]