Side Effects may include:
Hallucinations, and the feeling of fear
The day Reggie met Emerson was a day she’d never forget, but never really remember. It wasn’t a romantic story, nor was it majestic, not even really unique. At least she thought so. In her eyes, they had been working in the same wing at the Lorrell Park Memorial Mall in downtown Houston, and something between them just…clicked.
However, the day Emerson met Reggie was a completely different story. He had seen her across the food court at the Lorrell Park Memorial Mall in downtown Houston, and she seemed strange. Not strange as in odd or, different, but strange as in strangely familiar. He recognized her. He recognized her curves, her features, and most importantly her personality. Oh, how he loved her personality. He talked with her for what felt like an eternity, but was only their overlapping lunch break that was only about ten minutes, and after he went back to work, he couldn’t stop thinking about her.
One Year Later
The time was now. Today was the day. It was now or never. Em needed to meet Reggie’s parents. He needed to. He wasn’t usually one for big dinners, and meeting family formally, or really anything conventional, but this meant a lot to her. He straightened his tie, and brushed some stray dog hair off of his white and gold suit jacket from his freshman year talent show, in which he tap danced his way off the dignity express with his old girlfriend, Simone. He had vowed never to wear it again, it was ridiculous, but it was the only tux he had, and in Reggie’s email, she said that her family was “fancy” and “a tuxedo was a sign of commitment”.
She drove down the narrow dirt road that led to his house, and prayed to whatever she believed in that he wouldn’t screw this up. Ugh, please let this go well. When she pulled into his driveway, she beeped, and he came rushing out the door. He got in the car, and immediately she had questions
“What is that suit? Why does it have tails? The one thing i said to avoid was tails! Why is it gold? And why in the name of Jesus is your tie made of metallic gold pleather???” She bombarded him with questions, and didn’t care that he didn’t have time to answer.
“Well, this suit is from freshman year, it has tails because it is a dance costume, tails were not in the email, it is gold because gold matched the vegas themed music, and the tie is majestic. Plus, I like the outfit. It adds character.”
“Fine. El Fine. Bueno. But don’t tell my parents where it’s from. They will not be pleased.” They laughed. That’s how their relationship worked. She, Reggie, was a worrier, and he, Emerson Sam Brown, had just the amount of well timed sarcastic humor that set her straight.
They arrived at the restaurant, and Reggie waved out the window of the car as they out. Her mother was beautiful, her father was composed, she was gorgeous, but he, on the other hand, looked like he was a circus showman.
“Hello, Emerson,” Reggie’s mom approached him, and grabbed his wrist, “I’m Evalyn.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Em said, he was trying his best to remember the script he was supposed to follow.
“Hello” Reggie’s dad surprised him. He came up from the back, and gave him a slap right in between his shoulder blades. He lurched forward, and just missed Evalyn’s left shoulder. Reggie stood behind them, smiling at the situation, but annoyed at the fact that it wasn’t going well. She loved Emerson so much, she wanted her parents to love him too. All of a sudden, her brain betrayed her. She burst at the seams. She let out a laugh that surprised everyone, including herself. Em turned toward her and giggled a little. Her mom joined in, and soon her dad followed suit. They stumbled into the restaurant overcome with joy, and sat down.
We had moved passed our laughing fits, and had retreated to small talk. Reggie and Emerson were sitting on one side of the table, and Evalyn and Mark were on the other. Em wrapped his arm around Reggie and she shrank into his side as the waiter approached them.
“Anything to drink?” he asked.
“Waters for everyone for now,” Mark said. Emerson wanted to protest, but he was quickly silenced by an elbow in his side. They resumed their conversations, which were mostly segregated by the table. Mark and Evalyn spoke softly about salaries, while Em and Reggie whispered where they were going to go after dinner.
Once all was said and done, and the food delightfully digested, Emerson excused himself to go to the bathroom. Instead, when he got out of sight of the table, he exited the restaurant, and pulled the car up to the door. He texted Reggie to come out, and within a minute or two, she was sitting in the passenger seat of his old volkswagen bug. He kissed her, she blushed, and they pulled out of the restaurant parking lot.
“Where are we going?” Reggie giggled.
“Wherever you want, Buttercup” He said. The nickname was only used on occasion, when something special was happening. It originated from the movie The Princess Bride, which was their guilty pleasure movie.
“Can we go to Paris?”
“As you wish”
“Oh Westley, how I love you”
*14 hours on a plane, and a frustrating cab landed them in a last minute booking in Paris, France.*
“Good morning, my lovely” Emerson said as Reggie waltzed out of the room in green pajamas. They were flowy and short, and the only thing she knew about them was that she loved them. She didn’t quite know where they came from, yet she couldn’t remember a time without them. They were kind of ugly, but in a quirky way. She’d had them since she was around three.
“Good morning, my prince.” He walked up behind her, and grabbed her waist.
“Go get dressed,” He whispered in her ear as they swayed to the music of the morning in the city. “I have a surprise for you.” And just like that, Reggie was in her room getting dressed, and wondering what he could be doing. She walked out the door and he presented her with a big book. It was black with white stripes and to the front was taped two eiffel tower tickets.
“Babe! It’s so cute!” she gasped, “Tower tickets? When can we go?”
“We can leave whenever, they’re for the whole week. We can go as many times as we want.”
“Let’s go!” Reggie yelled, “sorry. That was loud..” she hooked her thumbs into her overall straps, and rocked onto the heels of her boots
They jumped out of the cab and Reggie raced toward the tower as fast as she could. Emerson grabbed her bag out of the trunk. They went through security like a breeze, and soon enough their ears were popping on the elevator to the top.
Reggie jumped off the elevator and dug in her purse for some euros to work the telescopes. She looked out at Paris and saw the designs of the streets, and the buildings. The sight started to get blurry, so she shoved in another coin. She looked up at the sky. The clouds were racing by, at an alarming rate. She felt the ground shaking under her feet. A flock of birds blocked her view all around on the scope. Looking around, the birds covered the city. They flew up the middle of the tower and swarmed around everyone. She remembered Emerson.
“EM!” She called out, “EM!! WHERE ARE YOU?!” She heard no response. Birds were coming from all sides. She needed to get down. She walked and struggled to find the elevator. On her way down, her sight cleared and she could see. It was dark, like a whole shadow had blocked out the sun. She grabbed her phone, texted Em.
[R] em, where r u???
[E] I’m at the top where r u?
[R] by the taxis… hon im scared
[E] why, is someone bothering you?
[R] DO YOU NOT SEE THIS?!?!?!? they’re everywhere!
[E] who is everywhere?
[R] The birds Em, the birds!
[E] im coming down. something’s wrong
[R] i told yoiwjargh
[E] ARE YOU OK!?
[R] They knocked me off my feet, their crawling all over me, im covered… Bye Em.
Em reached her. She was sprawled out on the ground, shaking. He shook her, but didn’t succeed in getting her awake. Someone had called 911, and before he could make sense of it all, paramedics were wrenching her from his hands.
*One day Later*
Reggie’s parents flew down to Paris. They were not pleased with the surprise trip, and traveled over 1000 miles to find their daughter. They arrived in the hotel room, and Emerson looked up at them from the blue armchair in the corner, and there was pain, fear and worry, all built up in his mind, and showing on his tear streaked face. Evalyn burst into tears when she saw Reggie. Her eyes were closed, but she could see them darting back and forth under her eyelids. Mark wrapped her in his arms, and she quivered in them, feeling safe, but also so vulnerable. A doctor walked in, and lightly tapped her on the shoulder.
“I’m so sorry to have to do this, but we need you out of the room so that we can run tests. I’m Dr. Hernandez, and I work with cases like…” He looked down at his clipboard, “Regina’s.”
“It’s Reggie” Emerson cut in.
“She goes by Reggie”
“Oh, well in that case, if you would kindly clear the room, I’ll get Reggie prepped, and we’ll get started with the testing.” They filed out of the room, each lingering at the door a little longer than the last.
After about an hour of sitting in the visitor’s chairs in the lobby, Dr. Hernandez came around the corner with a strange look on his face. The expression he wore was hard to read, but it didn’t take a genius to tell that it wasn’t good. Mark stood up, and soon Evalyn followed. Em, on the other hand, stayed in his seat, to scared to move.
“So… What’s wrong with her?” Evalyn asked.
“She, she has a rare type of depression. It spikes up in stressful, or even just over exciting situations, and can cause panic attacks, hallucinations, and anxiety. It’s easy to overcome, but if she keeps doing overwhelming things like this, some other serious consequences might come up.” Emerson felt a mixed wave of shock and guilt wash over him. This was his fault. He was the one to come up with the stupid idea, and he was the one who went through with it.
“Can I go in?” He asked, filled with hope.
“Of course” Dr. Hernandez said. Em walked past him with a blank look on his face. He went to the room #224, and gently pushed on the door. She lay there on the bed, significantly more calm than before, a towel draped over her forehead. He knelt down beside her. And set his head on her torso. He felt her breathing in and out, in and out, and his mind stopped whirring for a split second. He was taken back to before this all began. The day at the Lorrell Park Memorial Mall in downtown Houston, the day they first met. He started to shake. Tears fell from his eyes unexpectedly, and he was silent, gasping for air. He felt like he was drowning, but not in the way that he could pull himself out of. Falling deeper and deeper into the trap. He thought about the topic at lunch that fateful day, which happened to by a debate on bubble tea, and the rung of a ladder appeared in his head. He thought of what he ate, soft pretzel bites, and another came out of the grey fog. He remembered the highlights of her outfit, and a whole section descended from the abyss. He climbed his way up the ladder until all the tears left in his body were happy, and the thoughts he had left were only of the time they had spent together. The times that they had spent sitting on the couch rewatching Princess Bride for the 1000th time, or the times that they had spent chatting at work, and when they were on the plane. Before the time came to an end, and it came crashing down on them like the last grain of sand in an hourglass. He shriveled up in his memories, and found comfort in her. He found comfort in the warmth of the sun, and he felt strangely content.