Short Story: Why Am I Like This?

“Why do I dislike everyone I first meet? Why does it take me so long to trust somebody, if I ever trust at all? Why am I always looking for someone to betray me? Why I am always worried that I am going to lose the people I love or that they will leave me? Why is my normal state one of mild paranoia and anxiety? Why do I have to work so damn hard to be happy? Why do I have to meditate, avoid alcohol, get enough sleep, train regularly, and eat well just so that I can bear being around myself?
I hate my job. Every moment here all I think about is what I regret. I regret not being present enough with my girlfriend; I regret not paying enough attention and not being grateful. And every moment at home is lost in thought, phone and gaming. Where am I in all of this? Occasionally I am here but there is so much space in-between each occasional present moment. This space, this space where people talk at me, where I am riding the bull of the thoughts that are my mind, where am I?”

***

He stands frozen in front of his work computer, his perception narrowing; the people in his periphery are now invisible. His computer and monitor take up the entirety of his visual field, but soon he only sees a few lines on the screen.

They speak at him from all directions. They think he is listening but he is barely aware of their presence at all.

They are still talking when he misses a step in his mind and looks around rapidly. They stop talking and they are all looking at him. His awareness is now overcome with the depth of his breath, so deep but not deep enough. He takes another full-bellied breath, the breath goes down but he is not getting any air from it.

Someone asks what is wrong and now he is worried that the contents of his mind are on display for anyone and everyone to observe.

A cold sweat is forming on his forehead and armpits so he sits down on the cold concrete floor.

Someone asks if he is ok and he just stares back at them.

Finally he generates enough mental energy and responds, “I don’t know.” The world is spinning around him and he is the only thing that seems to remain steady.

Then, he remembers what he therapist told him to do in situations like this.

‘I am in control. I am relaxed. I am in control.’ He says in his mind while synching the words with his breaths. The sound of his heartbeat thumping in his ears is already drawing his attention away from the words.

‘I need to go home.’ he thinks.

He stands up, a little too quickly, and leaves through the back door without saying another word to any one of his colleagues.

‘I am in control.’ He jumps in his car and makes to go home.

‘I am relaxed.’ He drives down the motorway toward his house, hyper aware of the other cars and the danger each and every one pose to him.

‘I am in control.’ He drives past his exit.

‘I am relaxed and in control.’ He breathes while driving toward the city bridge.

If he were present at all, he would hear the many cars and their incessant honking. If he were present at all, he would realise that he stopped his car in the middle of the road at the peak of the bridge’s curve. And if he were present at all, he would hear the people screaming, and trying to get to him, as he climbs up the barrier that separates the road from the empty space sixty metres above the waters surface.

‘I am relaxed.’ He thinks one last time as he watches himself as a shadow watches its creator.

‘I am in control…’

He steadies himself on the edge of the barrier, finally in control. Looking around he notices that the people who were screaming and yelling at him have all stopped. They are no longer paying attention to him; they are all looking down toward the water’s surface.

He looks down just in time to see his body, or the memory of his body, flying toward the blue below.

“Where am I in all of this?” he wonders.

 

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