Emily Watson

My First Panic Attack in the Art Hallway Bathroom, First Stall

name five things you can see:

  1. Dark blue stall walls drown me with their whitecap waves.
  2. The red eye of the automatic flusher that stares me down, threatening to act every time I lose my balance.
  3. Bugs, dead, in the LEDs that hang above my head.
  4. The two cat sketches on the glossy white tiles above the toilet paper dispenser that taunt the janitors.
  5. “Need Help?” in bold letters on the door followed by phone numbers I want to, but will never, call.
Four things you can touch:
  1. The coarse grout that tugs at my arm hair as they rest on the tiled wall.
  2. My shirt. Every time I pull at the fabric, creating space for my lungs to breathe, it tightens around my neck.
  3. The rings I fidget with until I turn them so much the friction frays my skin.
  4. Rows of imprinted crescents gouged into my forearm by my nervous nails.
Three things you can hear:
  1. My heart thwomps, mimicking the echo of a giant stomping through a silent forest.
  2. Swish. I lost my balance.
  3. The door that connects the outside world to this toilet oasis opens.

Two things you can smell:

  1. The toilet water splashes onto the floor, mixing with my fallen tears.
  2. A person outside of my stall. The stench of their impatience is a potent onion, diced and thrown into my face.
One thing you can taste:
  1. Fear.

Emily Watson attends St. Joseph High School; Watson tied for third place in the Charles Crupi Memorial Poetry Contest for Michigan High School students. For more information on the contest, please visit the Albion College English Department website.

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