"Stop asking me if I'm okay...



"Kyle, sit down."

"-yeah, I know it's crazy-"

"-I'll get a double please-"

-so many people-


"-that's us-"

A crash. People shouting. Laughing. Dishes clink together. Waiters call out orders. Noise. So much noise. Pressing, suffocating, pushing in on him from every direction.

-hands fly up to his ears, frightened, panicked-


Someone pushes past him, cussing when their drink spills. He stumbles, falls. Someone touches his shoulder, offers him a hand. He scrambles back, eyes wide.


-his eyes squeeze shut, hands pressing into his ears, fingers digging into his head. Trying, trying, failing to block out the noise-

"Hey, kid. You okay?"

The movement in the restaurant has ceased. People are staring. Their stares pierce him, exposing him, pulling apart all his secrets.

-stop looking at me. Stop. Stop please-

"Hey. Hey it's okay. You're okay, see."

Something's taken his hands. Gentle. Kind.


Pulls them away from his head. He's bleeding.

-don't trust them-

"C'mon kid. Open your eyes. Can you do that for me?"

-eyes open. Slow. Hesitant. He can't see He can't see He can't!-

"Hey. Breathe kid. Breathe."

-and he can't breathe and he can't see and he can't!-

"Hey! None of that." The Voice again. Gentle. Admonishing. Kind. "Breathe. With me. In one, two, three...Out one, two, three. In..."

-knees uncurl. He breathes. Short, hiccupped breaths. He's safe here. He's safe-

The restaurant has started moving again. He moves to stand, stumbling slightly, and a hand shoots out to steady him. He flinches.

-relax. He's not going to hurt you. He's just a person. Just a person-

"Thanks." He leaves.

-footsteps behind him. Someone calls out, wait-

"Hey, you sure you're okay? You need me to call anyone?" He's standing straight. Most likely military. He was in front of him in line. He never did get his coffee.

-call someone? Call who. No one to call-

He shakes his head. He'll be fine. He can make it on his own. He can manage. "I'm good."

-he's good at bluffing. They don't have any reason not to believe him. Sometimes he wishes they did-

"Alright. As long as you're sure you're okay." He nods for confirmation, even adding in a smile for good measure.

-if only he wasn't so good at lying-


...I'm tired of lying."