Short Story: Subway Anxiety

Subway Anxiety


Haley stood on the platform waiting for the subway. It was going to be a twenty minute wait since she missed the last train. Usually she wouldn’t mind waiting around, not today. Today all she wanted was to get home and hide under her covers.

Today was a really bad day, she texted her sister, hoping that she’d be able to talk.

Haley was diagnosed with ADHD at age 6. Attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder symptoms included hyperactivity, an inability to focus, depression, and anxiety. Growing up she had no control over her thoughts, her attention, and an overactive imagination. At 22 Haley thought she finally had control of herself, but today she was once again faced with the fact that there was no escaping from it, no matter how hard she tried.

Haley moved to the city right after college, right into this new job. It was her first experience in the real world. She began working at the small advertising company a couple of months ago. No one there knew that Haley worked differently.  She walked around in her Steve Madden booties, hair tied up in a bouncy ponytail, holding her vanilla latte, acting like she was normal, like everyone else around her, except she wasn’t. On the outside she was perfect but there was darkness inside her.

If Haley said she needed to take a break, or to have the directions written down and explained, people would ask her why. Despite her struggles, she was dedicated to doing well because it was her first big opportunity to prove herself. She didn’t have to just sit at a computer, answer e-mails and do whatever was put on her desk. This was her time to shine.

A few months ago Haley got the position to be the head organizational leader for their newest client.

“You’re the most organized person I know Haley,” her boss told her, referring to the post-its all over her desk.

“Oh thank you so much, Jeff.” she responded.

“We are expecting big things from you,” he told her.

“Great,” she said smiling, except there was a knot in her stomach.

But when she would walk in the office, latte in her hand, smiling and saying hi to everyone she passed she felt like she was playing dress up. She was pretending to be a responsible working girl, not Haley, a girl who had this darkness wanting to come out.

What happened? Her sister finally texted her back.

I’m going to get fired. I just know it. Haley began to text, her hands moving fast and saying everything she needed to say, not caring about misspelled words. She knew that even if her text was jarbled her sister still would be able to interpret it. I’m not going to make the deadline. And I’m trying really hard but I’m just feeling no matter what I do it’s not working.  I have a week, which is good. But, the IT guy never answers my questions and if he does it makes no sense. He makes me feel dumb. The graphic designer is out for holiday. I’m trying, I’m really trying but…it’s not happening!


The whole day Haley could not cope, she had post-its all over her desk, writing down everything that came to her head. She drank coffee past 1:30; that wasn’t good for her, but she did it anyways. Haley was reaching her point of exhaustion. But it wasn’t only work she had going on. To top it off she spent the whole day worried that she left the oven on, and her mom wouldn’t stop e-mailing her or texting her about this weekend’s get together. Something she really was not looking forward to.  And when someone set a pile of work on her desk after lunch she knew she needed to go.

She had this little tick scratching her head behind her ears- that was the first sign. Not wanting Ryan, the cute mail boy, to see her she quickly left without him, something she usually didn’t do. She usually would  time  it perfectly to walk right out with him. They would meet at the elevator doors.

“Hi Ryan,” she said smiling nicely.

“How are we today Haley?”

“Good, did you have a good weekend?”

“Yeah I did.  I was going to my friends house for the football game, well it turned to be a night out.”

“Was it fun?”

“Yeah it was. Did you have a fun weekend?”

“Kind of but I really didn’t do much,” she said. Her weekends were spent in her apartment with her dog, doing laundry and getting ready for Monday, so when she walked in she would feel she was on the same level as everyone else.

Ryan was a nice guy, he was the kind of guy that rarely ever talked about much, he mumbled a lot of the time, but he cared. Haley liked that he really didn’t seem like the kind of guy to work in the office, he had that working in a garage or with cars vibe about him, sleeves always rolled up, looking completely off in a blazer. But he worked here because it paid well and he needed the money. There wasn’t anything going on between Ryan and her, she new that. But the other day he kind of asked her out, but not really.

“You ever go out Haley?”

“Not really, I usually stay pretty chill.”

“You know you should come out with us?”

“Oh,” Haley answered stuttering nervously, “it depends really, when and where. I live far from here; I’ve got to take the subway.”

“Do you live by yourself?”

“I have a dog. His name’s Woody, a Newfoundland.”

“Very cool. You should come out. It would be fun to have you out of work mode, you’re so studious…it’s a good thing of course.”

“Thanks though.” she said feeling like she just told him no even though she wanted to say yes, but she didn’t know if it would be a good idea. Haley had had one boy friend, but it was a teenage love affair that ended quickly when he decided he wanted to date Molly Madison. He then decided to start a rumor that Haley was obsessed with him and had psychotic outbursts at him. This wasn’t true, but people believed him anyway since she was known to end up in the nurse’s office from anxiety attacks.

Haley didn’t want Ryan to think she was crazy or psychotic. And if Ryan saw her in mid ticks he may think that. Or worse ask her what was wrong. She wouldn’t know what to say because how could you explain something you didn’t understand yourself? So she quickly rushed out to catch the subway, that she missed by a minute.


Haley looked at her phone, her sister wasn’t texting her back, which was fine but now Haley was left standing waiting for the subway on her own. She began to itch behind her ear like a dog. She thought about her job, worrying about sending an e-mail to the client about the project without double checking it for any spelling mistakes. She thought about Ryan and how if he saw her acting like this, he would think twice about asking her out. She thought about all the things she didn’t do before leaving.

The platform began to fill. A man came to stand about an inch away from her, like there was no other room but where she was. That irritated her more, couldn’t the man see she really couldn’t handle being near people? More and more people started to come around her and Haley began to feel trapped. There was a lump in her chest that kept growing. She couldn’t shake what was happening to her. Haley kept on thinking about how the conversation would go with her boss when she’d tell him that they wouldn’t be ready for the meeting. She thought about her parent’s faces when she told them she couldn’t make rent because she got fired.  Haley began to think more and more, piling more things onto her self. She was pulling herself further in and she soon wouldn’t be able to get out.

Trying to calm herself down she began telling her self what she would do:

I’ll go home. Take off my clothes, put on my shorts; just dump everything. Grab something quick to eat, that way I’ll have something in my stomach. I probably need to charge my phone; it’ll die by the time I get back. I’ll feed the dog and then we will go on a walk. And if I go on the walk I won’t think about anything, I’ll focus on something else.  And when we get back I’ll make dinner, watch some TV show as I plan out tomorrow.


A rush of wind hit her as the subway car went speeding by, tossing her blond hair across her face. She couldn’t stop, no matter how many times she told herself, it didn’t help. Nothing was helping, her hands were shaking, she couldn’t sit; she couldn’t stand. The darkness was building and Haley could feel nothing and everything all at once.


She was breathing heavily, looking down at her feet. It had been four years since her last major panic attack. Haley only got this bad on certain occasions, there were moments that were easy to handle and unnoticeable. Like when she had to drive her car and deal with other drivers or when she was at the Ed Sheeran concert, stuck in one place surrounded by a crowd of people, getting pushed by rude people trying to get to the front of the stage. She had to look up to the sky just to get her self back. Distractions helped but when there was no distraction, nothing would work – that’s when the hurricane hit.

The doors opened and everyone on the platform walked like a herd into the small little door, forcing Haley into the middle of it all. She moved around the people, all who were more annoyed by the ridiculousness of 5 o’clock rush hour on the subway, except it wasn’t 5 o’cock. It was only 3 so why was it rush hour already. Haley went to stand by the side of the door, forcing herself into a corner.

Her left arm began to shake; she felt tears forming. Her breathing was getting heavier and heavier. Everything she was wearing started to irritate her, she pulled at her clothes wanting to tear them off. She wanted to take sizzors to her hair, too. She felt scared but she knew wasn’t actually scared. She eyed her reflection in the subway window, she looked normal like she was just crying over a break up or some other normal thing.

She could feel eyes on her and at the same time a stranger asked her “are you alright?”

She nodded, “yeah I am fine.”

The entire journey  Haley tried to calm her self by blasting her music to muffle the sounds, but she could still hear them clearly. She tried texting her best friends, telling them how she was feeling, but no one was answering. She searched on Pinterest for some inspirational quote to give her hope, but it all was bullshit.


How embarrassing, she thought as she got off the subway. There she was an average girl, around average height, with an average job-her dream job at that, doing average things just trying to get by. But to everyone that saw her today, she was the wacky girl who was having an anxiety attack on the subway. If only they knew what was going on in her head.


Haley still had about a five minute walk back to her place, thankfully she lived in a quiet area where the only loud noise was kids playing on the sidewalks. As she walked she listened to her music, trying to escape her own thoughts. Haley never felt like herself when she got like this. She felt like she was drowning in a storm, even though she knew how to swim. For once in her life she just wanted to have some sort of control over it, to not feel this way. She wanted to be able to focus and handle her anxieties. Instead of letting the wave of emotions, fears, thoughts get the best of her. She wanted to be able to handle work, to not feel like she was giving excuses, to not worry about the small things. She wanted to be able to have relationships, maybe with Ryan. For once she didn’t want to feel she had to escape but handle what life put on her.


Later in the evening, when everything was calm and she was tired from the stress of the day, she took her dog for a walk. She thought sitting in the house wouldn’t be the best idea. There was something soothing about walking down the streets in the city right before the sunset that gave her reassurance. Haley would walk the streets watching everything around her, like she was being acquainted with the night. But unlike Robert Frost she found comfort in the loneliness. Everything came and went as it pleased but Haley always found herself at the end of the storm.




Thank you for taking the time to read my story. This is the first story I share on my blog so let me know what you think in the comments below. Also I am going to post words and pictures on the facebook page because it’s something I like to do and if your anything like me I love finding those kind of things and connection to them.  If your not following A City Girl story follow on facebook, Instagram and bloglovin.