Standing in the lobby of the multiplex, the word hits me like a cement wall. Agoraphobia. I find myself instinctively dodging the oncoming and bypassing foot traffic. I glide hither and yon as people approach, concentrating on keeping several feet of distance between myself and others. As the crowd ebbs and flows around me, I bob and weave like a buoy swaying with the waves.
My hand tightens around the paper cup of chocolaty coffee and I glance down to make sure it’s not spilling. The sickeningly sweet odor wafts up to me and I cringe. How can he drink this stuff? Mentally I tick off the seconds as I size up everyone who comes near. My anxiety rises making the couple of minutes I wait seem like eons.
Finally my husband exits the bathroom; I hand him his coffee cup and we proceed to our particular theater. In a dark sea of red, I follow him up and up and up the carpeted stairs. As though sensing my need, he selects seats in the center of a row with no one else close by. I’m relieved to see this theater sparsely populated.
Why am I afraid of being in a crowd? I don’t want to catch what it might be offering. This year’s flu is making itself felt throughout the country. New York has declared an emergency and I visualize my daughter trapped twice a day in the tubular sardine can that is the subway. “Keep hand sanitizer on you at all times,” I warn her. “Don’t touch your eyes or mouth unless you know your hands are clean.”
I’ve already decided I will hop a plane, recycled air and all, and go to her if she gets ill. The mother instinct will protect me. But, I have a sneaky feeling that if she gets sick, she won’t even tell me till she’s better. Kids. Anyhow, it makes me feel better to know I have Plan A in place. Plan B is to stay home and worry. Wait, that’s always Plan A.
You would think if she was ill I’d want to stay away. But as a mother, I traveled within a force field making me, in my mind at least, invincible. Mind over matter. History shows that even when the whole family was lying about sick as dogs, Mommy just kept on going and going like the Energizer Bunny. Who had time to stop and be sick!
But now I’m an empty nester and I have plenty of time. Plenty of time to think and imagine. Imagine how the virus slithers toward me while growing exponentially like The Blob. I know my force field has sustained some damage, courtesy of RA. Holes have been ripped through. It is no longer impermeable to danger, in my mind or in fact. How will my immune system stand up to this current mutation of a virus? I don’t want to find out.
Y’all stay healthy now.