I asked my friend in Germany if she could give me a word that means "the relief one feels when one is crying and one remembers one didn't wear mascara today." She replied with "die Mascaraabwesehnheitserrinerrungimweinenerleichterung."
I apply this word retrospectively to the moment a couple weeks ago that I was sitting outside Parma General Hospital at a picnic table smearing tears all over my eyes. I was experiencing die Mascaraabwesehnheitserrinerrungimweinenerleichterung in part because a slight Indian man was at the curb loading up his vehicle with medical supplies. Die Mascaraabwesehnheitserrinerrungimweinenerleichterung made me think I had a shot at being attractive.
I heard my mother call from beyond what I imagine is an ice-cream booth that serves employees who click their heels together as they swarm to the picnic tables for lunch each noon. My mother and grandmother were standing what seemed a dangerous distance away, just outside a giant revolving door. I rushed across the entrance with my face to the parking lot, not wanting anyone to remember me as the person who had inside experienced "the embarrassment one feels when one repeatedly tries to board an elevator but one's body keeps jumping out of it unbidden."
I hugged my grandmother. "I'm sorry," I said.
"He didn't seem to want to see us today, anyway," my mother said.
When we had arrived earlier, my grandmother and mother rocketed up to the third floor to see my grandfather. I took the stairwell. The stairwell allowed no third-floor access.
I found this discriminatory. Who stops the loonies from seeing their grandfathers?
I walked back down to the first floor. One of the elevators stood open, its arrow pointing up. "This is a sign," I thought. So I scouted all four corners of the building for another stairwell, which, if it exists, exists in places where people are cut open for stuff. I went back to the elevators, a different one of them standing open now with its arrow pointing up. I got in the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. The button transported my body back outside the elevator. I tried again, and again I found myself in the hallway.
I sat down. Employees streamed around me. My phone lit up: "You can't get here by stair. Do you want a nurse to come help you?" my mother wrote.
"No, I just want to sit here and feel like an idiot for a while," I replied.
I used to take elevators without a second thought, but a period of stress has plowed my mind under. Anxiety requires rehabilitation, just like any other injury. I'll get on an elevator someday as part of that rehabilitation.
Driving away from the hospital that day, I experienced "the pride one feels when riding to one's grandmother's house in the back seat of a car without experiencing too much panic."
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