The Good Stuff

My books have arrived! The long-awaited happy day.

I have carefully printed, cut out, and affixed address labels to padded envelopes, written notes, and signed copies of gift books to send as thank you to a few champion supporters and I’m standing at the Post Office counter as the envelopes are processed one by one.

It is hot, my double face mask is stifling and I notice I am mouth-breathing. The pain begins in my jaw, sharp as an ice pick, and travels down my neck. My perspiration distracts me for a moment. Why is it so hot? The postal clerk and the people in line behind me are wearing sweaters, some are in jackets. I’m the sweaty hot one—It’s not this room with its double doors open to April’s breezy first day.

My chest hurts. Deep crushing pain. It’s the jaw-chest torture of esophageal spasm. I know this intellectually. I grip the counter with my left hand, breathing heavily behind my mask as I press my upper chest with my open right palm. No relief.

Wouldn’t you know it? This moment, sending my first book out into the world, is marked with anxiety and panic. Chagrin also. I wonder how much longer my very methodical Post Office clerk will take to process my media mail, if I will collapse first. I wonder when the pain will become overwhelming.

Feeling faint, I leave quickly when he’s done, dashing to my car for my water bottle in hopes that swallowing water will resolve the spasm, and it does.

This is the good stuff.