when they ask

by Charlotte Amelia

how do you explain anxiety to someone?
is it the hitch in your breathing and then
the tightness in your chest
as you try to catch yourself
and remind yourself that you’re still standing
but your legs want to fold
and your brain is telling you that it’s not safe
and you haven’t been safe for a long time now
you can’t remember what it felt like not to feel the gnaw
and you can’t remember when it switched from
wanting not to cause a scene
to wanting to cause a scene
because if you collapse you get to leave
people will notice and care and treat you like spun sugar
but when you make your legs stride and your lungs burn
nobody is going to help you
and you’d cry if you had the air to do so
but instead you keep walking
and in that moment
you’d face a firing squad
because a bullet to the brain
is easier than meeting the eyes of a stranger