Panic Attack

This is the first time I had a panic attack.

It started as a simple attempt at relaxation during AP Computer Science class. I accepted an ear bud offered to me from a project partner of mine. As soon as the little thing was snuggled into my ear the nostalgic mumbles of Jay Chou occupied a good half of my mind. Absent-mindedly I was typing out lines of code, trying to remember that I’m not sitting in the back of an old Toyota driving through a typhoon storm, and my mother was not pretending to be annoyed by my sister and my attempts at imitating the loose jaw and nasal voice characteristic of Chou.

Then the strangest thing occurred: some of my classmates conversed or sang off-key as per usual while they work on their own projects. For the longest time I listened to each syllable pronounced. For the longest time I knew not what they meant.

What year is it? Why are Taiwanese people so good at English all the sudden?

Why did I think I’m surrounded by Taiwanese people?

I stopped coding and attempted to convince myself that I’m in America. A shaking hand ran across the laptop before me. Right, a school laptop. That was not a thing in my elementary school eight years ago. But, still. The syllables ran on, a flood of syllables clicked against my ears, and I listened, drowned, only with a fixed eye upon the light at the surface of the water knowing full well all is but an illusion. My heart’s pounding was another chaotic noise that I failed to comprehend.

I pulled out the ear bud, thanked the person giving me the music, wondered and continued coding.

So he said…

So he said, “My daughters would never want to commit suicide: even if they do, then that’s just too bad since life has so many burdens harder than college decisions,” when my mother urged him to stop throwing temper tantrums this month.

Hours later, he texted her, threatening her that he would kill himself if she continue to work at the magazine company she recently joined.

So he said, “Girls should only be educated so they would be more reasonable,” when I asked him about his opinions of women’s education.

He spat those words over a bowl of rice that was meant to be shared between the four of us as it wolfed it down, slurping miso soup and drowning pork katsu that he forced us to order even though we all hated fried things.

So he said, “It’s funny because I would want my daughters to be independent, but my wife should just stay home and make sure everything is good.”

Another bite of katsu. My sister set her chopsticks too hard onto the table while my mother shushed her. A “but you are part of the problem” escaped. Days later, he demanded to see everything in my sister’s phone since she came back from interning at the most prestigious research facility in Taiwan 10:00 p.m. since she wanted to buy some desserts before heading home. He suspected that she has a life.

How dare she have a life.

So he said, “Why didn’t you tell me her college decisions earlier so I don’t have to worry?” when my mother told him about my UCLA acceptance and scholarship a few hours after it came out.

I looked at my future. It’s as cloudy as my mother’s brows as he continued to bicker and threaten divorce, suicide while she continued to hide the atrocity from me.

You know, the usual.

So he said, “Is $200,000 enough? If we sell the house you are living in right now, sell your stocks, and I give you some money, we will have that. The three of you can live off of that for a while. Would you settle with that?” when he threatened divorce, again.

How could he know? That’s the amount he didn’t pay when my sister went to UCSD full ride. That’s the amount he would have to pay had I not also secure nearly equally financially beneficial deals with my colleges. I suppose I will no choices when it comes to my college decisions.

So he said, “You guys are so cold and logical” whenever we tried to reason with him.

Cold? I wish that I am frozen, logical enough to know that it’s not my fault when mother is forced to put up with him. How can I logically convince myself that I am not a shackle, and that my absence would allow her freedom? Am I not the cage? Her fear of her daughters being fatherless, her daughters being declared the “children of divorce” kept her there.

How much would it take so he would stop? I suppose I can only experiment.