Pink8 October 2019
(CW: anxiety, panic attacks)
The room didn’t make a habit of observing, with too much interest, the comings and goings that occurred within it. The room’s purpose was merely to exist, and besides, bodies moved in and out of the room all day. Exiled to the bottom of Union House, it lay watchful, tucked behind the eternal queue for a neighbouring Japanese restaurant.
The vibrant pink walls cast a glow over its visitors’ cheeks, ever-present as they chatted with their friends over the sinks, fixed their hair in the mirrors, rushed in and out.
But this body—
The room could sense something different about this body. Different, but not unfamiliar. It could feel the body’s heartbeat echoing through the soles of their feet, casting shockwaves up the walls. It could see the way their shoulders tensed upwards so tightly that their elbows shuddered.
And, in a thought that it quickly tried to shake off, the room wished it could ask the body what was wrong.
Unable to do so, the room contented itself with cold observation.
The body walked into me, heavy with the world,
and stopped in front of the mirror.
(I felt the anxiety that descended place its cold
and wretched hand around my throat.
I needed an out, and quick.)
The body stepped away from the mirror,
Left foot, right foot, left foot
Heartbeat ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum
Spasming against the inside wall of their
(I know I’m not in danger, but I can’t keep a
thought still long enough to process it. The
volume of the room seemed to steadily
increase, past the point of accommodating my
The throat began to close, sticking to itself,
tensing against the pressure of air,
ears dialling up to white noise.
(The movement of the people around
me, oblivious and indifferent to my plight, sped
up and seemed to circle like predators.
And me, their pathetic prey.)
They shrunk away from other people
as they got close,
walking past the sinks,
walls flashing pink-gray-pink,
into the long room lined with stalls
disappearing into the distance.
(How did it come to this? My terrible downfall.
Cowering from the dangers of the real world,
from people that aren’t myself or places that
The head turned right, then left,
Waves crashed into one ear and
droplets leaked out the other.
The body turned left,
Turned into a stall.
(The scratches in the paint, the illegible graffiti
irritate me into irrationality.
My mind fizzes and spins, catastrophes spilling
over reason like black ink, staining beyond
(And all the while, it’s so unbelievably,
Their hands trembled,
soft fingertips quaked on bent knees,
pads gave against the resistance.
(Maybe if I sink a little longer, I can
lose the panic that grips me.)
Hot breaths gusted against their chest
as the head rocked up and down
a buoy far from shore,
(D r o p
the exclamation points
from the end of my sentences
and slow my frantic mind,)
And eyelids flitted against
the red-tinged light.
(I’m stuck in this pink abyss
with nothing but a soggy tissue.)
(That’s it, time’s up.)
Then the body began to move,
(It’s time to face the real world.)
To loosen and straighten all at once,
Shoulders falling and spine aligning.
(I pull apart the threads of worry, lay them neatly
side by side.
Smooth the chaos of my mind enough to move
Hands worked purposefully to wipe
moist cheeks dry,
(Seeing the evidence of my unravelling stings,
stirs the despair I try so desperately to quell.)
(But indifference comes quickly, so tired, so
drained of all will to distress.)
The body remade itself.
When the body finally emerged from the stall, eyes puffy and eyelashes still wet, the room felt something resembling relief. Hands were shaking, still, but it seemed the worst was over.
The room watched as the body made their way past the long line of pink stalls to the sinks. Palms rested heavily on the countertop. A pause. Then the body lifted their head to meet their own eyes in the mirror.
The room knew the mirror was not kind, but it was honest. And though not everyone liked what they saw, they always came back.
There was one breath, and another, and then the body pulled their hands back, tucked their arms by their sides, turned, and walked. Three short steps and they were gone. The door to the room shut behind them slowly, as if pushing against the current.