There was this bubbling tension in my chest. I mumbled apologies as I shuffled closer to the front. My mind numb with panic. I could smell the alcohol on the bar circulating the tightly enclosed space. I could feel the hot pressure building and the friction between bodies heating up the room. I could taste the paleness of my gum. My head was swirling with the lack of fluids and food. The smell of the obvious drug use somewhere in the vicinity made my stomach lurch forward and force a gag up my throat violently. I closed my eyes and swayed to the sound of drunkenness and excited chatter. I tried to focus on zoning out.
Everyone has their high. Alcoholics, romantics, adrenaline junkies, and actual junkies. I guess this is mine. And most people feel the downer after the high, the heartbreak or the hangover, I feel the downer before the high. The nervous buzz in my chest willing me to turn around and walk to the back of the club and just watch from where I could breathe clean air and lean against the back wall for support. That is what I had to endure before I could grasp the high.
My feet were aching. I had been standing in the same position for two hours and even the comfiest of shoes couldn’t keep my soles from screaming for a release of tension. A one leg balancing act, learned only a year before, can help for a while releasing the tension, one foot at a time and it gave me something else to focus on; not falling on the people around me.
The place is getting tighter. My airways were closing like the gaps between the people who surrounded me. I was squished against some speakers by ribs bruising and my knees scraping against the low stage. I tried to gasp for air and focusing on my breathing. In for four. Hold for four. Out for eight. A methodically calming exercise used almost daily for my anxiety-ridden mind. I had grown accustomed to the chest throb and agonisingly paralysing panic which can ripple through my body at any moment. But this time it was self-inflicted. I had chosen to make my way into this cesspit of trepidation within my mind. I placed myself in my worst nightmare.
For the same reason, the hopeless romantic falls too quickly in love again and again and again. For the same feeling, the addict gets when they go back for another hit. For the high. I wanted to escape from the congested people, feel the cold night air hit my lungs and the space of the darkened streets replace the bodies of the strangers around me. But the tightening feeling only meant one thing. I was going to get my next hit in only moments. I was going feel the punch in my chest the scream of my lungs and the burn of my skin as I let the intoxication push against every blood vessel until they explode from the blissed-out pleasure.
The room darkened. The drunken mumbles came to a standstill and I could hear the movement in front of me. I couldn’t seem to peel my eyes open just yet, preparing myself for the explosion of noise which will erupt at any moment. I smiled at the crackle of the speakers and I inhaled slowly. The abuse of my eardrums began in a clatter of crashing musical fire. The loud and unfathomable noise which was headache provokingly loud compared to the calming mumbles which had once filled my mind. But a headache was worth it, the entire basement moved as one, the crowd smashing up against each other in a messy unison to the beat of the screams coming from in front of me. I swayed with the crowd, feeling the thump of the bass replace the throbbing ache of panic in my chest. I could feel the much-needed thrill tingle through my skin, press against my forehead in the form of sweat and the tension floated from my mind like a balloon in the wind. I grinned. I sucked in the stench of stale smoke and sweat mixed with the concoction of alcohol. I pushed against the crowd my feet no longer feeling the strain for the unit block of fumbled bodies supported my tiny frame.
I was no longer thinking about my breathing. It just happened naturally now. My veins were buzzing from the music. I couldn’t think about anything, except how light I felt as if everything that was holding me so solidly to the wooden floor had evaporated into the musky air and decided to sit at the bar until I was done having my fun before it would begin niggling in my mind once again. A break from life, a bubble of gleaming light and the panting recital of lyrics. Time moves so quickly when you’re in that chest numbing state. I was being pinned against the speakers and the stage and my chest was constricted not from panic but from the full force of the crowd behind me. The music was thrumming through me like morphine making me unaware of the dark bruises staining my legs and the pain in my head from the pounding drum. My heart was now thudding to the beat of the bass instead of the beat on my apprehension.
I was dizzy. But, the swirling buzz from the music loosened my tightened limbs and let me freely move around swaying my arms in the air ridiculously and sing from the top of my lungs every single lyric. My gum had a taste again and I muttered thanks to myself for staying brave when the panic took over. The dazzling lights from the stage illuminated the space around me and I could see my shaking hands pushed out in front of me swaying to the rhythm of the music and I remember how they seem to float with no effort at all. My body was suspended in the air with nothing but the drug to keep me afloat.
There was no downer. The high lasts for days from my self-induced terror attack. I can smile tragically at the solid bruising forming on my body from the night before. My bruises are the addict’s injections marks, the romantics love bites, the adrenaline junkies battle scars. There is no such thing as a harmless high, but mine is easier than most.