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  • Writer's pictureHannah Crazyhawk

Unmasking in Starbucks

Today was absolute shit, except for a small window of time in Starbucks. After my oncology appointment, I had to pick up a prescription. It wasn’t ready, so I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t pass out while waiting in the swanky Starbucks next door. At least there was chai and lemon Bundt cake to devour. I always feel afraid in public, but that feeling rarely subsides. I’m a highly masked Autistic with ADHD. I usually wear dresses, not because I want to engage with any gender norms but to accommodate my chronic illness needs. Anyway, I found a nice spot in the corner to melt into. The music blared the Titanic theme song and Smashmouth. Oh, hell, I thought, why must I feel the need to “sit like a lady” and to eat “properly.” Today, I stopped caring about how I looked and what anyone would think about me being a bit more myself. I slumped down into the stupid vomit-colored leather chair and ripped open my food. I uncrossed my legs, draping them across the chair’s edge. I stopped sucking in my stomach muscles as I slurped my chai and gobbled down the lemon Bundt cake without care. 

I’ve always enjoyed people-watching. They are in their little realms, wholly absorbed by some device. No one cared about how my legs were positioned, how I ate, or how my face registered as my usual, unmasked, cold bitch tone. Dropping my mask can be terrifying. But, after today’s exhausting oncology appointment and fighting with my insurance, I decided my mask was too heavy. 

I felt a strange pleasure in being a closer version of my true self in public. I just sat there without fear that someone was judging how fat, ugly, or weird I was. What would they think? Who cares! The endless medical trauma I’m enduring every single fucking day is too much.

Each week, I see three different specialists (at the least) mental health providers and have in-home physical and occupational therapy. I endure multiple labs and scans, hours on the phone with my pharmacy, hours with my insurance, hours with my case managers, managing my in-home caregiver, and being the liaison between all my medical providers and aspects of care. The work always falls upon the patient’s shoulders. I work the equivalent of two full-time jobs, plus all the hell of being chronically ill. I’m glad Starbucks was there today to hold my ghastly needs to be human. 

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