As I sit in my chair, typing away at my computer, I feel eyes, watching me. Not bad eyes. No harm is intended, I can tell. But someone, perhaps more than one person, watches me. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, but I have no goosebumps. My arms have been rubbed raw in the cold atmosphere, yet my face heats up to an uncomfortable level. Everything in my personal state of being is contradicting itself, unsure of itself.
I can’t tell if I’m writing on a straightened thought process, organized and well planned, or simply tapping out whatever words decide to make themselves known. Is what I’m doing logical? Does it make sense? And when I ask that, I can’t tell, either, whether I’m referring to the very idea of my activity, or of the contents of my activity.
The harder I think about it, the more those watching eyes burn holes in me. Now I know, there are many eyes. A few people at least. They’re not watching me because I draw attention or ask for it, but simply because I’m in a spot at which I am visible.
As I feel the eyes tracing patterns on my back, in my braid of hair, on my every movement, my growing senselessness makes itself certain. My heart rate changes. Is it speeding up? Maybe it’s slowing down. Is it speeding up and becoming faint, or is it slowing down and becoming harsh? My ears perk up and twitch with every little sound; the taps of keys on keyboards, the scratch of pencil on paper, the slow intakes and outtakes of breath from every one of my fellow students in the room.
My eyebrows crease, in some combination of concern, fear, concentration, annoyance… What is running through me head?! My fingers continue to fly across the keyboard, but their movements become more anxious and my shoulders hunch more with every passing minute.
I continue to be watched by someone, by multiple someones, eyes constantly landing on and leaving my working figure. I’m simply sitting at a desk, am I somehow interesting for sitting still and typing?
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Papers ruffle. Pencils clatter. Silently muttered conversations increase in volume. Someone begins to breathe more heavily, and after pausing to listen for the source, I realize it is my own respiratory system at work.
Calm down, calm down, I tell myself. There’s nothing wrong. You’re working, you’re writing, you’re typing. You’re fine.
There are eyes, there are people looking at me. Stop looking at me!
Despite my efforts, my breathing pace continues to increase, and the volume of other students’ conversations seems to be growing.
Type, type, tap, click, type, copy, paste, type, type, switch tabs, add this here, backspace, period, wrong, keep going, type, type…
My heartbeat is definitely going faster than it was before, not slower. The beats resound in my head and I can feel blood pulsating through my shaking hands and heated face. My brows crease further and my breathing has become harsher.
Chatter, chatter, mumble, mutter, chuckle, laugh, chatter…
What are they talking about?
My arms and legs are burning. I haven’t so much as moved any of said appendages, yet they burn like I’d been walking for hours.
Type, type, tap, tap, backspace, typo, typo, wrong word, what just happened?
I unconsciously begin to rock back and forth in my chair. I’m not a baby. It has nothing to do with needing comfort. Does it?
Burning, burning, burning… I can’t hold still anymore!
My eyes begin to dart around the screen. I don’t even know what I’m typing anymore. My back and forth movements accelerate and my breathing is rapid.
My eyebrows are still scrunched, but they raise, I probably look dumbfounded. What about, I can’t say. I know it, but I really don’t. Don’t ask me, I can’t tell you!
I’m fine, this is fine. I don’t make mistakes. My writing just needs redoing. No mistakes. I’m supposed to do it right.
Who’s watching me!?!
I can’t turn around. I have to see whose eyes, but I can’t. Whose eyes, whose eyes, whose eyes? They burn me.
My knee starts bouncing up and down and my arms take my hands away from the keyboard. Wait! Wait! I wasn’t done! The story isn’t finished! I have to finish it!
My arms won’t obey me, and neither will my fingers. They still type, but there are no keys to press. They fidget and dance, bounce and scratch. My hands move to my opposite arms, holding them tight. Let go! Let go!
My heart is pounding hard, so hard, I can feel it, I can hear it, stop, stop!
Click, chatter, type, scratch, papers ruffle, people talk, so loud.
My eyes are bulging and I breath heavily through my mouth.
Not now, please not now, I can’t do this now, I have to work!
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
My heart beats, my breathe hitches, my eyes pop, my brows scrunch, I rock back and forth, my knee bounces, people talk, pencils clatter, papers ruffle, can’t stop thinking, can’t hold still.
Stop watching me! Stop!
Someone grabs my shoulders. Finally I can turn around. Vaguely, I hear the words “are you okay?” and “calm down.”
I’m fine, I say in my head. But my mouth and voice won’t answer.
I have to type, I have to work.
People talk, so loud, the clock, the computers, that noise-!
It all stops.
I don’t know what happened. I had closed my eyes to shut it all out. But now it’s all gone.
I open my eyes again. I’m not in the same place I was. The computer I worked at is gone. Where did it go? I’m not sitting in my chair anymore. My desk has gone.
Actually, I’m not sitting at all. That doesn’t sound right.
I sit up, rubbing my eyes. I’m at home, in my bed. It’s morning. I must have gone home yesterday. It’s 6:30 AM. It’s Saturday.
I decide it’s time to get up and get ready for the day. There’s no point in waiting in my bed.
After a while, I decide: Yesterday was a good day. It was mild.
And as I sit down at the little table in my mom’s little kitchen, I look around briefly for a small bean bag or a pencil to twirl in my fingers. Instead I find a small prescription bottle. This one is mine. It reads:
“Take two pills twice daily. Take three times if anxiety continues to escalate.”
I smile tiredly.
My heart beats. The clock ticks. I feel eyes, watching me.