I see it in him immediately. I am quiet as I each my nachos slowly and watchfully. His knee is bobbing up and down and he’s giving off a nervous energy. He keeps looking around at the people coming and going and he’s chatting about nothing then lapsing into awkward silence. He can’t control my rambunctious two-year old sitting next to me, just as he can’t control anyone’s reaction to her. He can’t control the appearance of things—the fact that I am so much older than him; that I have children and that no matter where we go together we look like a family. It’s plaguing him and I wonder to myself if it will eat away at him slowly as anxiety often does.
He works the late shift, and as a dutiful “significant other” I awaken at 3:00a.m. to drive into the city to pick him up. With my recent traffic issues I am scared and on edge. He gets in the car and I make a wrong turn. My anxiety level goes through the roof. I can’t breathe. My heart is beating out of my chest and he’s frustrated with me because he sees me panicking. He doesn’t raise his voice but it’s rough in tone and I am sensitive. It takes everything within me not to cry, I just have to get us out this city! A cop car appears out of nowhere and I am almost in full meltdown mode. I sloppily pull over to the curb, blind with fear and we watch gratefully as the cop passes us. He tells me to calm down and I can hear the effort of patience in his voice. I’m calm on the outside but I feel like I’m having a heart attack and I just might spontaneously combust. He’s staring at me from the passenger seat.
He doesn’t recognize that we aren’t that different from each other. Most people aren’t….they just want to be.