“Frank, I can’t find my way out. Everything’s different.” Droplets of sweat ran down Sandy’s arms and pooled on her bare thighs as she gripped the steering wheel tighter.
“What do you mean you can’t find your way out? Where are you?”
“I’m in the parking lot – and I don’t know how to get out.” The pitch in Sandy’s voice escalated with her panic. Frank spoke to her in a controlled, gentle voice as Sandy fought to emerge from yet another “foggy” episode.
“Honey, relax. It’s going to be okay. Are you still at the plaza?”
Since the accident, Sandy balked at traveling too far from home, and she rarely went anywhere by herself. But this morning, she ventured out alone to stroll through the bookstore and elaborate gardens at the Tri-Center Plaza. The roses were in bloom, and the array of colors and smells were a pleasant reminder of happier, more carefree times.
“I left the Book Nook, and started to drive, but then I got confused and I can’t get out. What’s wrong with me?! I can’t even come to the mall by myself. Am I going to have to live like this forever?” Sandy struggled to finish her last words before erupting into uncontrollable sobs. How had this happened to her? She was a college-educated woman, once highly respected by coworkers, and a competent leader in her church and community. Now, she couldn’t even find her way out of a parking lot.
“Sandy, listen to me.”
Sandy continued to make random turns at each aisle she encountered. The mass of cars and stores blurred together, creating an oversized abstract painting. Picasso must have lived in a fog, too. This looks like one of his masterpieces.
“Sandy. Are you listening?”
“Pull into a parking spot and stop.” Sandy had been through this routine with Frank before; once when she went grocery shopping, and another time when she couldn’t remember how to get to the doctor’s office.
“Honey? Are you parked?”
“Yes, I’m parked.” Sandy’s agitation with Frank, the situation, and herself was apparent in her curt response. From previous experience, she knew Frank was going to have to give her step by step instructions, but she resented being spoken to as if she was a child.
“Good. What’s in front of you?”
What do you mean ‘what’s in front of me?’ she wanted to scream. Mass confusion, a blurry mess, a dense fog … that’s what’s in front of me. Instead, Sandy answered in rapid fire sentences.
“A lot of shimmering cars all swirling together … like a kaleidoscope. And a bunch of new stores. They just popped up … from nowhere. There’s a game store, and a video place, and a juice bar-thing, and a yogurt shop. Where did they come from? They weren’t here before.” Sandy’s frenzied words gave way to convulsive weeping.
“Sandy! Take a big breath in, and blow it out slowly.” Sandy focused on her husband’s words, and did as he asked. She thought her quivery breaths sounded more like a freight train chugging up a hill than slow, steady breathing, but at least her hysterical crying had subsided.
“SSh. That’s better. Now, look to your left and tell me what’s there.”
“And on your right?”
“A barbeque restaurant. I don’t remember seeing that when I drove in, but I had to have driven right past it.” Sandy reminded herself to take slow, deep breaths. Oh God. Please help me get out of here. I hate being like this.
“Okay, I know exactly where you are. I want you to back out of the parking space, and drive toward the Book Nook. When you get to the aisle directly in front of the store, turn right.”
Sandy was grateful for her husband’s soothing manner. He knew just how to rescue Sandy from the enveloping shroud that threatened to suffocate her.
“Now, tell me the stores as you pass them.”
“The Book Nook… The Shoe Frenzy… Sports GOALore.” Sandy’s quaking voice grew more confident as she named the familiar stores. Her fog appeared to lift as the scenery around her became clearer.
“I’m at the street. I know where I am!”
“Good girl. I knew you could do it.”
“Thank you for helping me... again. I’ll see you shortly.” Sandy breathed out a sigh of relief. She could get home … for now. But as she drove, she couldn’t help but wonder when the next fog bank would roll in.
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