To anyone experiencing anxiety—or the very real stresses behind—this is for you.
May you find your mallow <3
MY PALMS SLID AGAINST the guitar, slick with sweat, I tried to wipe them across my jeans, but it was no use. The noise was deafening. I had to remind myself why I was up there. “Saint! Saint! Saint!” Stomping ensued while I knelt down and made the sign of a cross in the air in front of me. “We want Saint! We want Saint!” With a muffled curse, I stood, then reached into my tight jeans to pull out a smashed marshmallow.
I popped it in my mouth and closed my eyes, allowing myself to be transported back to a simpler time, a time when things were easy, when decisions weren’t all on me. When life was about making mud pies and carrying around miniature marshmallows in a measuring cup.
“You don’t have to save the world,” she whispered. “You know that, right?”
“Right.” I furrowed my brow. “But why is it wrong to try?”
“Oh, Zane,” My grandma leaned down to eye level. “Just because your parents were taken from you, doesn’t make it your job to make sure everyone and everything is safe from the bad in the world.”
My frown deepened as she walked off, my two little sisters skipping after her. I was the man of the house. It was my responsibility to take care of the girls, especially Grandma, with no other family but her. That was my job. My papa told me so on my last birthday when I turned six; he said I was a man.
And it was time to be that man.
I quickly ran into my room and started making a list of how I could help. I didn’t want Grandma to lose the house, but how could she keep it if she wasn’t working? I never saw her leave for work, and we used those funny coupon things in line at the store, and sometimes, I had to bring stuff back because we couldn’t afford it.
With determination, I sat at my desk and started writing out my list:
1. Make enough money so Grandma isn’t hungry. Because sometimes she gives me her extra meatloaf. I hate meatloaf.
2. Be famous, so I make money.
3. Make sure Grandma keeps her house.
I thought a little harder, shoving the end of the pen into my mouth. What else? With a grin, I wrote out the last number. Tears ran down my face at the memories, but I wrote it anyway.
4. Never, ever run out of marshmallows again.
I took the stage two stairs at a time, hands still shaking, body still trembling with anxiety, and grabbed the mic stand, sliding it in front of me. I gave a smug grin to the waiting crowd as I strummed out the first two notes. The lights dimmed, as the audience cheered, and then I held one finger to my lips as I motioned for them to be quiet.
The entire stadium went silent.
“I’m Saint…” I chuckled. “Are you ready to be saved?”
“NOPE!” I HELD MY hands in the air and started walking backwards, maneuvering my way through crowds on the boardwalk. “This is where I draw the line. I’m not a stalker!”
“But you could be.” My friend Maggie nodded her head vigorously. “You just need to fully commit to the idea.”
“Of going to prison?”
“Oh, please.” She rolled her eyes, gaining on me. If I turned and ran from my best friend and then hid in a trashcan would that make me lose best friend status or just mean I was smart? I started to turn on my heel, but she grabbed my elbow and tugged me back toward Main Street. “Do you really think he’d send a blind nineteen-year-old to prison?”
“I’m not blind!” I yelled. “That’s lying!”
“Your glasses are huge.” Maggie’s eyes widened as if to show me logistically how huge my glasses really were. “Trust me, just pretend like you can’t see, he’ll totally buy it.”
“But I can see.”
“Without your glasses you’re legally blind as a bat,” she pointed out, her long blond ponytail swishing as she picked up speed. We went from walking to jogging all within the span of a few seconds. I tried to dig my heels into the ground, but she was strong.
And I’d always been small.
Only five foot one. So even though she was barely five four, she still had some strength on me.
“Mags, stop!” I yelped, nearly stumbling into an elderly couple. “We are not doing this. You know I stutter when I get really nervous!”
“Perfect!” She seemed absolutely thrilled at my terror, damn her.
We rounded the corner.
I didn’t see any sign of him. Thank God.
“Look,” I huffed, making a mental note that I needed to work on my cardio if all it took was five seconds of jogging for me to get my butt handed to me. “You didn’t really see him, you’ve just been watching way too much reality TV. TMZ said he’s here for the fall working on his album. He came here to get away from the crowd, not meet some obsessed groupie!”
“I’m not a groupie.” Mags didn’t look back at me as she jumped into the air then went and climbed onto a park bench and continued her vain search of Zane Andrews. “Plus, at his last concert we made eye contact, you know what that means, right?”
I had officially lost all patience. Mags was home for a long weekend, while I’d been home for months since I wasn’t starting my freshman year at Portland State until the spring.
“Fallon!” Mags nearly jumped onto my face as she scrambled off the bench and started sprinting down the street. Well, I was going to have to bail her out of jail. That was all there was to it.
Deciding she could text me later, I turned on my heel and collided with a nice old man.
I dropped to the ground with a huff. My glasses fell off my face, and I was pretty sure I was going to have a bruised tailbone.
“Sorry, dear.” The old man said in a sweet voice. “Didn’t see you there.”
“That’s okay.” Pavement scraped my palm as I fumbled around for my glasses; I really was blind as a bat without them. All I could make out were blurry images of people shuffling around me.
The old man was in a walker, not like he could actually skip over to where my glasses had fallen and hand them over.