“Is there anything I can help you with?”, a store associate asked me. It jolted me a bit because I had no idea how long I had been lingering among the cards. I felt all-too-familiar pangs of vulnerability, embarrassment and isolation bubble up and disrupt the soft storm that was simmering inside my head and heart. When these pangs occur publicly an anxious sensation, which I never feel in other times, arrives and I want it to leave immediately. The associate was courteously doing her job and possibly (likely) sensed that I could use her offer. I wanted her to leave immediately, yet go ahead and tell her why I couldn’t make up my mind. I imagined myself blurting out “Why don’t you have cards for this? Is there anything you can do? Can you write a letter to corporate? Can I?”
Instead I responded as I’ve taught myself to do: With a cold shallow breath rising up from my chest to my throat, mustering all the little strength I have to keep my voice from breaking, I closed the door between us with a brief “no thank you, I’m fine.”
The lie echoed around me. I despise saying that phrase in times like this. My skin felt cold, as it always does when I am cornered into feigning wellness.
“No thank you, I’m fine.”