Gripped by Fear

I was heading north on I-94. Traffic was bad, for Milwaukee, as we were traveling around thirty. I had lost fifteen pounds, I was active in church life, I would be doing Tough Mudder and Guatemala soon. The woman I loved was coming back to me. She told me how much she wanted to marry me and be out in Wisconsin, I just needed to be patient. With the windows down, the music loud, life was good.

I was passing the Becher/Lapham exit when I felt my chest tighten on the left side. It happened before, especially during strenuous work outs. With traffic moving so slow, I started to stretch it out. But the pain didn’t go away. It throbbed harder.

The seat belt aggravated it, and I moved my hand between my chest and the strap, giving me space. I took in deep breaths. Sometimes I just needed to expand my chest. Still the pain intensified.

The pain was nearly enough to make me cry and I gritted my teeth. The mundane task of driving became a battle. I started moving over from the far left lane to the far right, making my way to the off ramp.

I exited on Lapham, the entire time wondering if I should be seeking out a hospital. But where was a hospital? There was no way I could drive and use my phone for GPS coordinates, not with how much I had to focus to not shut down from the agony bursting through my shoulder and chest.

Once off the highway, I took a right. The area was unfamiliar, but I had to find somewhere to park. It was a warehouse district with very few businesses. I finally found a BP and pulled over, my breathing becoming labored.

Parked, I keeled over in my car, releasing the seat belt. I gripped my shoulder and squeezed my eyes hard. The words were strained, “I’m going to die.” I laughed a little, but even that hurt. “Damn it. I can’t die now.” I rested my head on the steering wheel and sniffled. If I could get into the store, I’d be okay. They could call for help. If it was a heart attack, there was no way it was a serious one.

Outside my window there was a woman with her young daughter getting into their car. I blinked a few times at them, and the pain started to subside until thirty seconds later was gone. They drove away, and I went in to get an apple, then drove off.

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