I am up before the sun, before even the furnace awakens from its slumber to heat the house and I have slept maybe four hours. My anxiety, which procrastinated away last night’s hours in a movie, laundry, dishes, updating my phone, and playing my guitar before agreeing to participate in packing stares back at me from the mirror and worries. I want to cry, but I don’t have the time. I have to take a shower and get going.
The sun breaks above a dark cloud deck hovering over the city like an ominous alien spacecraft. The light pierces my tired eyes as I walk to the bus stop. Crows and pigeons take flight at my approach and for some unknown reason take laps around a mature Douglas fir until I pass. My dread grows and anxiety whispers beyond my hearing of today’s possible fates.
The light rail is uncrowded and I ignore the man who follows me on and sits down right behind me when there are many other open seats. This is a threat I understand, with probabilities and known outcomes. My anxiety notices the threat and passes it along to vigilance because it has a bigger fish on the line.
After I arrive, I head straight for the bathroom. It’s important to have an empty bladder in case there’s a problem because if something goes wrong, my anxiety tells me I have no idea when I’ll be able to use one again.
I adjust myself and both pairs of underwear to smooth any lines. My tight, stretchy jeans bind some in the crotch and cling to my legs. My shirt is loose and hangs down to hide my muffin top. My anxiety tells me revealing pants and a loose shirt are good.
I remember I forgot to put makeup on so I stop by the mirror near the door and swipe on some concealer and mascara. I groom my eyelashes and primp my hair.
I am not over- or under- dressed or made up. My anxiety tells me it’s good to do all these things.
I put my identification in my pocket and take a deep breath. It’s time.
I judge the lines, scanning for a woman, preferably a woman of color. I end up in a line stationed by a white woman. It’ll do. She stops me before checking my documents. It’s a general stop. It’s not me. I practice my breathing and my bored, disinterested look. My anxiety worries.
The line starts moving again and the first hurdle is past with no incident. I worry about the white supervisor directing people to lines and get lucky when he moves away to groom the lines at the other end.
I study the lines. It looks like I’ll have to pass the gauntlet. I resign myself to this and practice my request to opt out while looking for a line that’s mostly single people and less kids. My anxiety tells me the longer I wait in line, the longer I’m looked at.
The line at the end appears to be all single travelers. A supporting column blocks the view of the X-ray area and it isn’t until I’m in line that I see there’s no scanner. There’s only a metal detector.
I smile. My anxiety moves into background but doesn’t go away. All of us in line wait for a white techbro who’s slow to get all his stuff in trays because he’s not prepared. The agent tells him he also has to take off his belt. The techbro looks surprised. I wait with my laptop out and shoes already half-off.
I’m waved through and wait for my bag. They pull the bag of the man in front of me. He’s brown. I hope he doesn’t get too much hassle and I also feel guilty because I know if they’re busy with him, it’s less attention put on me and my bag.
My bag comes out and as I’m waiting for my shoes, a white guy gets in my personal space. I take a step to the left and he moves forward. Dude, chill out. The belt is slow. I retrieve my shoes, slip them on, and head to my gate.
My anxiety reminds me I’ll still need to fly home.
Shut up, anxiety.
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