The day after the sex party, I met up with a close friend, N and his friend from Australia P. N was going overseas for business that day and since P would be in town for several weeks he asked me to look after him. P, a gentle sort of fellow had just been sailing around Central America. Looking like a typical surfer he was brown with scraggly blond hair and a friendly way. The next day, I invited him over for a few drinks.

Sitting on the couch, we discovered we had the same taste in music. Drinking gin and tonics we fell into easy conversation. He put his arm around my shoulders and let his hand rest on me. Our legs were touching, it was nice.

Then suddenly it wasn’t.

‘I’m feeling weird. I’m going to go sit over there’. There was a tightness in my chest. I could see this was a little confusing for P. ‘I can’t do that stuff’ I told him. ‘I’m not good with intimacy and you’re N’s friend.’ I had found myself in a tricky situation. Were this someone else, someone I didn’t know I would be able to walk away. But this was someone I had to care for, someone I was supposed to look after. I tried to explain it but the more I talked the more anxiety I felt.

‘It’s ok.’ He said. ‘Come here’. He put his arms around me and we had a cuddle on the couch. For a moment I felt relaxed and he gently kissed my mouth. He touched my shoulder and it felt like his hand was hot. A healing hand. I could see where this was heading and I felt my throat constrict. I sprang away and stood in the middle of the floor. I knew how this must seem. I was a Scooby Doo character who had just ripped off their mask. You thought I was just another proper person but… THIS is what’s under there! I was shaking my hands as if trying to flick mud off them. I was holding my throat. P stood up next to me. I couldn’t see his expression because I was about to enter a full blown panic attack. ‘Woah, you’re really messed up’. He said.

And I was off. Kneeling on the ground, I pushed my face as hard as I could into the corner of the room. I felt tears streaming down my cheeks and onto my neck, clutching at my chest with one hand and hiding my face with the other I couldn’t breathe. Gasping and crying and very frightened, I had removed a second mask to reveal what must have looked horrifying. Yes. I am really messed up (I prefer fucked up but hey, some people like to soften things a little). These panic attacks, which began somewhere in the middle of my separation from my husband have been explained by my therapist: ‘I don’t want to go to Freudian on your ass (he’s a bit of a cool dude) but you do that when you feel like you can’t say what you need to say or, when you have something to express. It’s all oral.’ Yuck. I didn’t want anyone seeing this. At all.

Afterward, I had a glass of water and sat on the couch. P was putting on his shoes. He was getting the hell out of there as fast as he could and I didn’t blame him. I curled up into bed.

The next day I found bruises on my chest where I had pressed my fingers. I woke up in the middle of the night crying for the next three days. I hated this. I knew it was part of the process and I had accepted it but I still hated it. I felt humiliated, I was exhausted.

After three days I got my shit together. Onward and upward bound, things would get better I hoped.