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It was my second week in Japan, and I was visiting my boyfriend, Donovan. He had a “work party” at a karaoke bar, and we were expected to attend. My six week long visit had become a test in tagging along and holding it together. But I was starting to fall apart.

After only twenty minutes, the walls in the Japanese karaoke room suddenly seemed to be collapsing around me. A room full of people that I didn’t know surrounded me, and their stares were piercing. My chest was tight. The noise was radiating through my bones, my joints, my brain. I needed silence. A moment alone.

I retreated to the bathroom, and I was struck by how bare it was. It was cold, clean, precise. My chest heaved, and I stood directly in front of the mirror, examining my reflection. Why am I here? What I am doing? He doesn’t even love me anymore. My tears started flowing uncontrollably.

I watched helplessly, holding a paper towel to my right eye, and then my left. Black streaks of tears stained the white paper. Get a hold of yourself. Desperate not to be discovered, I headed into a stall. I needed a paper bag, something to breathe into. But I didn’t have anything except for a singing toilet. Maybe if I sat on it long enough, it’d play me a lullaby.

I sat, paralyzed. There was no way out of the stall. The walls were there, the lock was locked, the air was suffocating.  I was trapped by own mind. It refused to send signals to my limbs to get up, to flee. Stay, it said. Stay here, where it’s safer.

I heard the bathroom door open and my name being called. “Lori?” It whispered. “Are you in here?” It was Amy.

Move, mouth, say something. Say,”Yes, I’m here.”

Silence.

“Hello?”

Speak, damn it.

“Yes,” I choked out. “Here.”

“Donovan sent me in to check on you,” she said.

“Yes, out soon. Just…” I wasn’t even making sentences.

Her heels clicked across the floor, and the door closed behind her. It wasn’t out of concern that she’d visited me. It had been a requirement. She didn’t want to look like an asshole, not in front of Donovan. Even then I knew she didn’t care how I felt. She probably hoped I’d flushed myself down the toilet. I imagined trying it … ending up in a hellish waterslide that ended with me smelly, soaked, vomiting, but free from the constraints of Japan.

Now what?

Opening the stall, I went back to the mirror. Horrid. I looked pale, makeup free, ugly. I hated myself. I hated him. I hated Japan.

Breathe.

Desperate, I found the drink I’d carried into the bathroom with me, what seemed like hours ago. I downed it.  

Returning to the karaoke room, nothing had changed. I expected to see people, frozen in time.  But their lives had continued on despite my near death experience. Dishes clanked, drinks flowed. But mostly, their laughter was magnified by my misery.

“You, ok?” Donovan asked.

I nodded, taking his warm sake into my clammy hand.

Goodbye, mind.

I had a role to play – that of the cool, fun girlfriend. If I fell apart in front of them, it’d be all over. I had to save my breakdowns for bathroom stalls and mornings in bed alone. For now I had to hold it together, and what better way than with mind-numbing booze?

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