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M/S-IV: Pamela

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The pounding in her ears is so loud it begins to drown out the girl's voice. Pamela knows she needs to calm down fast because this only happens when she’s about to really snap. Doing everything she can to steady her voice, Pamela excuses herself from the discussion and, at a reasonable pace, walks past the people pretending not to have been listening to their conversation.

Once inside the washroom, she checks if any of the stalls are occupied before taking three deep, long breaths like her therapist told her to do. She could feel the stinging of impending tears and opens her eyes to scrutinise her face in the mirror. Some discolouration, but nothing anyone would notice, she thinks as she contorts her face, wrinkling her nose and raising her eyebrows to keep the tears from flowing out.

Pamela hears two people talking on the other side of the door, so she rushes into the last stall and closes the door. One of them is the girl who got her worked up moments ago. They're talking about online shopping or something.

At least I don’t feel like crying anymore, she thinks, as they joke around in the stalls next to her. While they're giggling, Pamela tears off a piece of toilet paper as silently as she can, and presses it on her eyes, absorbing the tears that have been sloshing but never made it down her cheeks. She desperately needs air, but the windows are barred down and she's too afraid to make any noise.

Pamela begins to replay the earlier conversation in her head but stops herself, knowing all too well she’ll be doing this for the rest of the day as it is. I can’t believe this happened again, she thinks, but decides not to wallow until she can speak to her therapist. The girls finish washing their hands and as they’re leaving, the one she wasn’t arguing with says “I wonder if Pamela is okay,” with the door closing before she can hear the other’s response.

What a cunt, Pamela thinks, and immediate feels ashamed for using that kind of language, even if it’s just in her head. She walks to the sink and inspects her face again. No signs of crying. There’s still four hours left before she can leave work, but she’s so drained she could lie down on the dingy tiles. She decides to book a session with her therapist for the next morning before work, even though it’ll be her birthday.

Pamela steps out of the washroom and hesitates, trying to decide which route to take back to her desk.