Plagued by social anxiety, Paul Conway is content with the online relationship he’s built with fellow nerd, Isaac Morrison. Isaac is determined to move their relationship off the screen and into real life but Paul’s fears stand in the way. The very thing that causes him anxiety in the first place might help him overcome it in the long run if he’s brave enough to face his fears.
My online relationship with Isaac had made me feel like a normal guy, but meeting in person threatened that. I had social anxiety to the point where I’d been known to have panic attacks in public. It was humiliating but something I was used to. Granted, I was nowhere near as bad as I’d been in high school; I’d gotten a pretty good handle on my anxiety over the years, but it was still bad enough. Bad enough that I rarely went anywhere but work and the few places I felt comfortable. Bad enough that if I didn’t get myself under control I would flip out when I walked into the café where we agreed to meet. Bad enough that I was petrified I couldn’t go through with meeting Isaac at all.
Isaac asking to meet in person made me terrified I would lose the one person I cared about as more than a friend. I put him off for months, making excuses about why it wasn’t the right time, or why we should wait just a little bit longer, but this week, Isaac finally sent me a message begging to meet, and I’d been replaying it in my head ever since. His message was more or less an ultimatum. I couldn’t blame him; he wanted a full, real-life relationship, and while so did I, the fear that I’d disappoint him so much he’d never want to speak to me again was strong. I knew if I didn’t go through with meeting him, I risked losing Isaac completely. Isaac was a chance for me to move past my fears and live the kind of life I’d always dreamed of, but the more I yearned for it, the more my anxiety grew. I had promised him I’d be there but nearly every fiber of my being was desperate to turn around and head right back home. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to meet him, I just didn’t know if I could.
Length: Short Story (10,982 words/38 pages)
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