Exposure therapy was the worst decision of my life, but everyone who claims they are interested in my safety has concluded that it's the best way to get me over my anxiety of the public.
To a certain degree, it's not like they're telling me that it's just hormones controlling the chains around my mind, but that's attributed to the fact that I glare at most everyone, and they quite simply don't wish to interact with me; I don't blame them, to be honest.
I suppose the only upside is that I am able to wash down my medication with coffee, not some bland tap water that makes you hope to vomit after a few gulps because of how inundated you are by its deluge — and simply the fact that there is a upside, the mere shell of the concept, is comforting to the continuously anxious.
However, today is different, with the guilt flooding the chambers of my heart and accelerating its pounding, and at first, I surmise that it's instinctual, considering this is a coffee shop packed with people, but after one quick look at the counter, my hypothesis is immediately altered.
The boy from the daycare center. The boy with whom I messed things up.
"I'll just find another place to swallow my pills," I decide, turning my back to the register after drawing in a deep breath.
Before I can make it out the door, before the clanging of the bells is put into action, someone shouts, "Hey, man! What can I get for you today?"
I pivot sluggishly, a meek grin embracing my lips that perhaps suggests, "Kill me now," but my feet order me to march forward. "Don't say anything about marching, mind voices," I direct, knowing that they'll transform it into something correlated to the army and, as a result, the post-traumatic stress disorder Dr. Saporta swears I have.
"You're the guy that came in and asked about Mikey, correct?" the boy asks, draping a green towel across his shoulder. I notice, in addition, another emerald apron tied around his waist — does he wear that all day?
"Heh, yeah, that was me." I laugh awkwardly, shoving my hands further into the pockets of my ebony skinny jeans and rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet. That's what people do, right?
The worker's brows crease. "Hey, are you all good after what happened? You seemed kind of shaken-up."
Shrugging indifferently so as to not reveal my true emotions (Dr. Saporta says I'm too apathetic for my own good), I reply, "Yeah, I'm fine, I guess" — I squint to read his name-tag — "Pete Wentz."
For whatever strange reason, the peachy complexion of the boy's skin boils to the blossoming charm of a rose petal. Why is he doing that? Am I to blame? From all of those questions, my coating inadvertently reciprocates the action.
"So what's your name, then? We need to get on an equal playing field." Pete winks, and suddenly my rose petal metaphor is enhanced to the epidermis of flame.
"I-I'm Patrick Stump." The words begin as a stutter but are pulled loose with an ounce of confidence and a toothy smile from both parties.
Pete nods, gesturing to the menu pinned to the wall above him. "What can I get for you, Patrick Stump?"
Oh, shit. I was not prepared for this. We are really in a coffee store. Wow.
"You can take your time," Pete assures, throwing a curt glance behind me to scout out potential customers, who are, fortunately, nonexistent in the store. "There's no one waiting."
I release a bout of air, clear my throat, and scan the items to make it seem, at least to Pete, that I'm putting thought into this, when I actually order the same exact thing every time I wander in here — a cappuccino, with nothing else added so that the barista won't falter, so that I won't unintentionally make a scene and cringe about it for the next five years.
"May I just have a small cappuccino please?" I request in the politest of manners, utilizing my "mouse voice", as my former teachers prefer to name it, and Pete bobs his cranium up and down, sliding an ingredient cup into a machine and clicking the button on its blindingly blue screen.
"What school do you go to? I don't think I've seen you at mine, Belleville High." Pete leans his intersecting arms across the freshly wiped counter — probably where the green rag's purpose originated, though he hasn't bothered to relocate it from his shoulder to somewhere else (I don't work in a coffee shop, sorry; it's not like I know where things go).
"Uh, I'm homeschooled, actually." It sounds like the cliché response, at least from someone who quivers at the mention of sunlight, but it's nevertheless true.
"Oh, that's cool." Pete's voice is laced with despondency, as if he's somehow offended by my educational choice, but he eventually perks up after a second. "The people at school are actually just a bunch of shitkicking ass-clowns. Nice move."
My lip is adorned with the puncturing capabilities of my teeth, and my eyes curve all around to find something with which to engage a conversation. "Yeah, it was a nice move," I repeat in a failed attempt to spur the speech back to life.
The coffee machine chirps heartily — not enough to trigger panic, though — and Pete's hands migrate to entertain its needs, disposing of the wounded ingredient cup and chauffeuring my coffee over to me.
I tip my head in thanks, bracing myself for the scalding bite of the creamy substance and miscalculating the time at which it strikes my tongue, but I've been wielding the cup for far too long, so I return it to its spot on the counter with my mouth still bare.
Gradually, my taste buds dance with the texture of the coffee, and almost half of the cup has been dumped down my throat before Pete beckons sentences from his lips.
"Do you come here often? I need more friends to see while I juggle daycare and this job, besides that one old guy who always sits in the corner and stares at the entrance to the men's bathroom. Don't think he's a stalker, do you?"
I lower the coffee from my mouth, giggling. "Yes, I'm a regular, but why are you concerned with the affairs of this elderly dude?"
"A gay stalker," Pete interrupts, eyes trained on the man while the man's eyes are glued on his aforementioned location. "Same," he adds.
"You're a stalker?" My eyes bulge, and my drink narrowly avoids being shot out. People being stalkers is remarkably problematic for my "paranoia", or whatever it is that my mother says — there's nothing wrong with being cautious.
Cachinnating at my expression, Pete corrects, "No, I'm gay. That isn't an issue, is it?" His eyebrow heightens, predicting the worst.
My crown rotates horizontally. "No, not at all. I'm, um, polysexual, so I guess that's kind of in the same ballpark."
Pete is impressed.
Impressed, that is, until someone I assume to be his manager, a man with a bright maple beard and matching hair, strolls out from the back, requesting that Pete stop holding up the line, which consists of no one at the moment.
"Oh, sorry, Andy," Pete atones for his mistake. Is he scared of this guy? He doesn't look like he'd be scared by anything.
"That's Mr. Hurley to you, Wentz."
Pete nods, contrition projected onto his bronzed face, and he forages for a scrap of paper and a pen, both from his breast pocket, redistributing it to me. He taps the parchment twice with his finger — blessed is he who refrains from using odd numbers in movement — and I restrain the black utensil in my fingers.
"You want my number?" I clarify, skeptical.
Pete's head shakes violently in a vertical tract as Andy grows impatient.
He's going to exploit you, psycho.
"Go away," I whisper, digging the pen into the dry flesh of the paper.
Pete sinks his head low to lock eyes with me. "I'm sorry?"
"Nothing. I just talk out loud sometimes," I lie, wrapping up my scribing of the numbers. "Doesn't really mean anything."
Pete appears unpersuaded, but he's too intimidated by Mr. Hurley to question me any farther, so he captures the note and stuffs it back in his pocket.
"I guess I should be going now. I don't want to hold up the line," I joke, glancing behind my shoulder to find no one, as always, and waving goodbye. "I'll be looking forward to your texts." I provide Pete with the most adorable smile I can muster.
And as I toss my empty paper cup into the trash can, I stop short — I had forgotten to take my meds.
A/N: andy hurley is such a cockblock tbh
ALSO THREE CHEERS FOR POLYSEXUAL REPRESENTATION
and sorry for using the word "psycho" I actually hate to say things like crazy, idiot, stupid, dumb, insane, crippled, etc. in a derogatory or irrelevant way so I apologise if that made you uncomfortable
current vibe: when they say, "it has begun," in the shanara chronicles trailer