I think everyone has at least once in their life experienced that moment where time stops or slows down. Kind of like that Matrix movie scene; the bullets moving in slow motion. Except that you also slow down. Your arms feel sluggish, the packet of chips in your hand feels like a dumbbell and it’s as if your legs are trying to pull you into the ground. And maybe, that’s where you want to go.
I have never enjoyed going to the school canteen, the very thought of it makes me anxious. Having to stand in line alone, surrounded by people chatting, laughing, shouting, nope. I always try to bring snacks from home or a packed lunch to avoid having to go to the canteen.
It had been a week or so since I started at a new school. I was hanging out with a group of girls. They were all really nice; too nice for my comfort. We came down for the lunch break, and I had a packet of chips in my hand. Kids were running around everywhere, screaming, pushing past people. Chaos.
One of the girls saw another friend of theirs, she waved at her and then started moving towards her. The rest followed and so did I. Except that someone ran between us, and I had to stop. They kept moving. The world stopped.
*i know what you must be thinking: that’s a bit of an over reaction. It’s not like they kept walking on purpose. What do you expect to happen in a busy ground? And I agree. It wasnt that big of a deal. It’s not like I was being left behind on purpose. But you see Anxiety is a cruel dictator and so even if I repeated to myself a 100 times, ‘ Rabia, it’s not that big of a deal. They aren’t trying to leave you behind.’ All it takes is a single ,’ Look they are leaving you behind’ from Anxiety to make the world stop.*
While time had slowed down, and everyone was barely moving, my mind was running. And as it ran through 10 different explanations for what had happened, it only settled on one.
You are being left behind.
And so, as my limbs started losing their sluggishness and everyone started moving normally, I screamed.
I screamed with my only weapon in my hand, my packet of chips.
‘Does anyone want chips?’
Funny, isn’t it?
I was trembling.
They all turned around. There’s eyes saying is she okay? Their faces asking what the hell just happened.
I was not ok. What happened?
Anxiety had taken over, and convinced me that my life was over.