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Free Ride

My anxiety is an amusement park – loud and large, functional around the clock for twenty-four hours, with the most festivity picking up after dark.

Its so pretty from afar – coloured in with grief and dotted with memories that make conversations seem far more catchy, glittering with nightmares the mind refuses to discard. I often wonder who’s in charge, for everything here belongs to me yet running under someone else’s authority, speeding up the rides and winding me around, clanging their bells so my screams continue to drown, manipulating my trauma into a twisted fantasy. There are clowns of my past selves roaming free, dressed in blinding colours as they laugh and point at me, walking reminders of all the me’s I’ve forcefully shed through the years, now mocking me as all the incomplete selves I’ll never get to explore or be.

I never get to choose what ride I want to try for somehow I enter the park every time with tickets already clenched in my fists, all the while whispering prayers that I cease to exist. For I know what these rides are like – I've been on them countless of times, and yet they never seem to get any less horrifying.

Cue the nausea and pools of sweat, the feeling of weighted floaty-ness, as my vision is blurred by tears that never make any sense. Sometimes I’m thrown into the machine with a claw, like a little stuffed bear completely incapable of self-defense so she just lies there watching a metal predator hover above her head, waiting for an inevitable death that never seems to come but the torture itself is endless. Sometimes I’m on a roller coaster with no seatbelt, so my knuckles pop out of my hands as I try to hold my grip and my screams get caught in the back of my throat as the wind chokes me from within and I wait for myself to crash straight into the concrete, paralyzed with dread. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night already spinning in a teacup, my hands unable to stop rotating the wheel, my heart pounding fast enough to be heard over my shrieks as everyone around me tells me to simply let go and breathe but they don’t see the shackles bound to my feet that won’t ever let me leave this seat.

But perhaps the worst is when I’m mindlessly ambling around, basking in the mundanity of the day, when I randomly find myself crossing the massive welcoming arch, and without any warning signs on this seemingly quiet day, I’m somehow back in the park. On such days I don’t have a ticket as I’m simply a wanderer, trespassing into a land that is impossible to depart, so I roam around trying to find a way out but one step too many, and I’m suddenly in a maze with no clues to guide me and no one else around. In the piercing silence that broadcasts your loneliness and feels like a Q-tip jabbing your eardrum, it doesn’t matter how loud I shout or how far I run, because on such days the park wraps itself around me and claims me as its own, and we become one. There is no separation for where I end and where the trouble begins, because on such days my anxiety reminds me that there is no escaping, for the clanging sounds and trapping rides and winding lines and overzealous clowns are all birthed from within.

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