I can't breathe.

This was my first realization that night at in house trial, as I sat up in the witness chair trying to get through my direct-
trying not to faint, not to cry, not to lose control.
Everywhere I looked was black.

He's trying to say something to me...

I let myself be guided from the stand and out the door, away from the crowd of the mock trial team.
This had to happen the night when all four coaches were there, watching, judging.
I wanted to disappear.

"Take a deep breath. 1...2...3...4"

Several minutes later, I could see again.
The overwhelming dizziness was gone.
I tried to wipe away some of the tears that had coated my face.

"You should go home"

Home, miles away in Columbia... if only I could get there from here.
But even the idea of standing was hard to face, much less the idea of movement.
As for the dorm... that could never be home.

"What do you want to do?"

"I don't know" --I want to die. "Let's go finish the direct."
We went back in. My answers were sloppy at best- incoherent at worst.
It was all I could do.

Somehow I got through it.

Somehow it was finally over.
Somehow the hours of trial went by and I was still conscious.
Somehow I walked out of the room like nothing was wrong.

I made it out the door.

And no further.
Falling back into a chair, I pulled out my cell phone and looked at the time:
eleven at night. My parents would already be asleep.

Only one person to call.

A few key presses and I heard the voice of my boyfriend of the past several weeks on the line.
He had company, but still sounded happy to hear from me.
(People aren't usually happy to hear from me.)

How are you?

I tried to answer, but where words should have flowed--
there were tears instead.
To his credit, he listened, and maybe even understood.

Is there anything I can do?

--Get me out of here!--
"No that's alright. I just wish I could go home."
Home to warmth and comfort and silence

"When do you want me there?"

Silence. And then--
"Now. Soon. Please..."
"I'll call you when I get there."

A ring, half an hour later.

Finally I'm in his arms.
I've never had anyone before who would have bothered.
All I can say is thank you over and over again, holding his hand and smiling for the first tme that day.

Maybe I've finally found something worth keeping...