You suddenly stumble out of nowhere. It is dark, no other humans in sight. Your loud misstep startles me, I thought I was alone. My heart beats increasingly faster—how long have you been there? Did you stumble because you’re drunk? Or high? How did I let this happen? How long have I not been present? Maybe you couldn’t see a rock on the path. Yes, that’s it. Calm down. Everything is fine.

Your existence is alarming. Something about you instinctively feels wrong. I walk a little faster, but not too much—what if you notice and speed up also? My chest is collapsing and panic is setting in. I turn my head hoping you are gone. You are closer.

Oh, God.

I turn again, you are still gaining.

I turn again, you are still gaining.

I turn again, you are still gaining.

Most people are good people. Stop overreacting. Breathe. You’re fine.

I am listening for signs you’re still behind me but I can only hear my own shoes hurriedly against the gravel and I wish my body wasn’t so heavy and making all these deafening sounds. I wish I could disappear.

I turn again, fuck

I run. I run as fast as I can. I don’t turn to see if I’ve lost him. I only stop when I’ve turned several times and reached my neighborhood. Nothing feels real and I don’t know if I just narrowly avoided crisis or if perhaps hypervigilance got the best of me.

My heart is beating so fast and my chest feels heavy with both panic and relief.

Am I ok? What just happened? Was that necessary; all that panic?

I am nauseous.

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