The Dream Didn’t Predict I’d Have a Panic Attack in Macy’s by Lauren Whitehead

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

The Dream Didn’t Predict I’d Have a Panic Attack in Macy’s

And yet here I am, full on sweating on the 3rd floor
of the 34th St. flagship having ridden the wooden escalator up
& then down & then up & down again & again carrying
round & round my grandma’s silk dresses in a too big paper bag
addressed to someone else & even though they fit perfect & snug
around each of my hips & breasts, I am still frantic, rifling
through racks in this department store searching  
for a different garment that will make me the most me
in a magazine & I don’t know this now, but somewhere
my delicate friend with eyes like an owl is also crying
while looking at torture devices on the internet & I wonder
where Macy’s ranks on that list with all its mirrors &
aggressive light & the same songs blaring over & over,
each floor running the same soundtrack in a round
& when I text my husband to say “I had a mild breakdown
in Macy’s today,” indignant he replies, “what were you doing
in Macy’s?!” as if it were Aleppo or Fallujah or some long off
battleground where women & their kids are routinely
skewered against some masked man’s monied agenda,
rounded up & hanged on racks to be sifted through by agencies
who can’t seem to count the dead & who can we count on
to see us if every mirror in this place is distorted on purpose &
how are we going to know if we’re a size 10 or a size 12
& on whose scale & by whose standard if there is no standard
& aren’t we all well in love with our own demise anyway
cause if not, what am I doing in Macy’s searching
for some lovely thing to drape over my body & make me lovely
on some overslicked page, smiling wide as if everything were just
lovely, as if I wasn’t somehow surviving this life
by whatever grace my grandma sent to me in this paper bag,
which some how made it to me anyway, wrong address & all

Lauren Whitehead is a writer, performer and MFA recipient in Dramaturgy (Columbia University). Recently she directed “How Bodies Reclaim Light” (New York Live Arts) and was playwright/adapter of “Three Sisters: Tulsa 1921” (The Secret Theater). Her first full-length play, “stunning, still” was read at Naked Angels and her writings have been published in Apogee, Winter Tangerine, Union Station Magazine and selected anthologies. This fall, Lauren will originate the role of “Un/Sung” in the hybrid opera “We Shall Not Be Moved” (Wilma Theater, Dir. Bill T. Jones). In addition to facilitating workshops around the country, Lauren teaches an advanced playwriting lab at The New School and a poetry and performance workshop at Juilliard. She really likes picking flowers, giving gifts and the aura of elephants. Find more info here.