Seltzer in the back of your throat and heat in your eyes. Skyscrapers of people loom over you, watching you fail, delighting in it. It’s cute when little kids are shy and unsettled. People react in the same way they do when they see a gerbil or a duck with flowers. It’s a show.

Something happens in those years you draw away from your childhood where you forget how lonely it is to be young. Where everyone laughs at your mistakes but won’t tell you what you did wrong. Sure, it’s cute when kids say bad words or fall over. But to be alienated at 6 is a red hot poker in the gut.

People begin to touch and attempt to comfort you. But the 20 piece marching band parading around your head has other plans. You wilt. Snapped down the middle like a malfunctioning animatronic. Everything past is unfocused and desaturated. You return home, unable to block the ruptured pipe that bursts from your eyes. This. Is. Your. Fault. You were impolite. You were rude. You embarrassed me. 

To this day that moment lurks over your shoulder, running its slimy tongue over every interaction you’ll ever have. Is this impolite? Is this rude? Is this embarrassing? And to this day that moment where your knees stiffened and your head almost popped in the middle of a restaurant on a Saturday night is still chocked up to (a)cute shyness.

You still taste that primal fear, that metallic anxiety rise up in your throat like bile every time someone talks to you. But hey, it happens to everyone…right?