Running from Death
By Kelene Blake
I was in the cab for about seven minutes when I noticed the driver looking strangely at me in the rearview mirror. I didn’t trust him. My leg started to shake. I was trapped. I started to whimper, trying to hold in the growing trepidation. My whimpering seemed to rattle the driver and he looked at me even more curiously in the mirror. “You need to stop the car.” I managed to say. “We’re still some blocks away Miss.” The driver stammered. “I said stop! Stop here!” I nearly shrieked because the panic had reached my throat. The driver stomped the brakes and pulled aside suddenly, amid some frantic honking from surrounding cars. I jumped out and started footing it. I could have sworn the driver was chasing me, but it was just his voice in pursuit, yelling “You didn’t pay!” I reached into my purse, grabbed a wad of cash and dropped it on the sidewalk. I didn’t dare look back to see if the driver got it.
I just kept going. I knew the driver wasn’t chasing me, but I felt like I was running from death itself. I ran until my lungs felt they were about to explode, then I turned and entered the first doorway I saw. It was a drug store. I stood at the door trying to look normal (however that looked). My heart was pounding so much that I had to buckle over. I made my way to a magazine rack and stooped down, resting my chest against my knees and pretending to check out the magazines. While I concentrated on catching my breath I saw someone come and squat down beside me. I didn’t look. A masculine voice addressed me, “You okay?” I meant to nod but shook my head instead. “Having trouble breathing?” His voice had a sense of knowing confidentiality. I nodded, still staring hard at the magazine in front of me. “May I help?” I started to shake my head, then I considered my options; accept his help or die right here. I nodded.
The man shifted to face me more squarely. I still couldn’t look at him. “Give me your hand.” I looked away, shut my eyes tightly, and gave up my left hand. I don’t know why. I was scared and he seemed to want to help me. He took my hand and pressed my palm firmly against his chest. “Breathe like me” he whispered. After a few seconds of freaking out about him touching my hand and putting it on his chest, I noticed he was breathing slow deep breaths. I focused on matching his breathing. My breathing felt forced, compared to the smooth rise and fall of his chest. I wasn’t sure if it was the fresh air getting into my lungs, the faint smell of his cologne, or the relaxing beat of his heart and the rhythm of his breathing that calmed me, but something worked. The attack passed in about five minutes.
I turned my face to my liberator. He still momentarily had concern written on his face as he looked at me intently. His face unbuckled into a smile. Lord that smile! It took me away to a place I had not been in a long, long time. I smiled back. “Thank you.”