That brown, leather couch was the most comfortable one I had ever rested on. It’s one of those sofas, which you can sink in and it could put you to sleep quicker than usual. While the cold leather hugged my body, my head became too heavy for me to carry. I decided to lie down for a little while; after all I had about half an hour to kill. I was immediately there, my mind was flashing back to that moment when I was the most embarrassed in my own skin. The moment when I wished I could be anyone but myself and I couldn’t stop replaying it over and over again in my head. I tried to fight the thought away but there was something about this atmosphere that sparked my memory right away…
“Nooo, get it away from me please! Where’s dad? Please call dad!”
The tourists had paid, expecting to see anything but this frantic panic attack. After losing all my energy from running around in circles, I curled myself up on the ground like a fetus. My knees were too weak to help me stand up, and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. The first thing I hide in such situations is my face, which at the moment was pressed to my knees with my arms around my head like I was being attacked. I wasn’t being attacked by anything except people’s bewildered stares. I opened my eyes just enough to peak through my arms and check if someone had shooed the dog away. I saw no sign of a dog but I closed my eyes again and kept my face buried in the sand. I didn’t want to look anyone in the eyes; I just wanted them all to disappear.
After a few minutes of wishing the sand would bury me right then and there, I felt two hands reach for me and carry me up. It was my dad; I didn’t need to open my eyes to know it. I quickly found another place to hide my face: his shoulder. He sat down on a bench still holding me in the same position for a while. He hadn’t said a word yet and my heart was still beating too fast for me to catch a proper breath. My mother on the other hand, being the worrisome lady she is, pulled me away from him as soon as she found us, with a cold bottle of water in her hand. She bombarded me with questions: “What happened? Was it all because of that little dog? What would you have done if you were alone? Why do you let it scare you so much?”
She didn’t even leave room for me to answer in between questions but I couldn’t blame her for not understanding. She was as protective as my father, but she just had a poor way of exercising it especially in such situations.
I could swear that my throat was as dry as the desert we were in, and as soon as I got a hold of that bottle I couldn’t let go of it till the last drop. My father still hadn’t spoken one word and that gave me comfort in a way. All I need after difficult moments like these is self-reflective silence. I would keep replaying the few minutes where I completely lost control of my mind and body wishing I would make peace with what had happened. But I never make peace with my panic attacks, and that’s why I still replay them even when I’m on the most comfortable sofa with my iPod playing my favorite tracks.
“Do you want to take a ride on that camel?”
I had so much respect for the way he never brought it up. He didn’t even ask if I was okay, he just knew I wasn’t and there was no need to state the obvious.
“No dad, I would rather just go back to the hotel.”
“But at least tell me you loved Petra.”
Yes, I loved it. Everywhere I looked, I wondered how the people had built such a place. A few days ago, some family friends came to visit Jordan and so my parents decided to show them its main attraction. I probably ruined their day with my hysterical outburst but my father didn’t seem to care at all. My mother, on the other hand, couldn’t wipe that troubled look off her face. Have I embarrassed her? What was going on in her head?
How could my father act so calm? Does he not know I could feel his short, terrified breaths against my forehead when he picked me up? I knew he was just pretending to be composed. I had heard him yelling out to his friend asking where I was before he saw me. I could hear it all, he yelled: “Fouad, weina Rasha? Weina? Please move.”
He was asking the puzzled group of tourists who stood above me to move away. One of them tried to explain to him that I was running because there was a dog chasing me, she even told him if I hadn’t run then the dog wouldn’t have followed.
“The dog probably thought she was just playing with it”, one lady said.
Dad didn’t respond to her, and they all walked away. I knew they couldn’t understand my reaction and I’m quite sure they had a good story to share when they got back home.
We were back in the hotel and I decided to take a shower in my parents’ room. As soon as I entered the bathroom, I heard mom start a conversation with dad about my cynophobia. I let the shower run to pretend I was occupied and I cracked the door a little open so I could hear them.
“If she wants a puppy, I will get her one. I can’t force her to do anything she’s not completely convinced to do.”
I got into the warm shower to drown out the rest of the conversation because I knew how it would go. Eventually, the talk would turn into a small argument and I would be the cause of it all. I didn’t want to see it go there, I had gone through a rough day.
“Rasha, you’re here! How long have I kept you waiting?”
He woke me up from my stressful flashback.
“I came early, I just love this couch. I don’t know why you put them out here in the waiting room and not in your office.”
I had come back to the office I swore not to step into after the first time. Today, I had something to talk about. I had a story I can tell him so he could understand me better. I don’t know if that couch was my own personal time machine but one sure thing is it brought back the most vivid details of that incident.