In answer to Linda Hill’s Just Jot It January:
When Carla woke up that morning, she wished she were dead. The past couple of days seemed to have gone faster; it was interesting how time seems to speed up when you wish it’d slow down. She hadn’t slept well at all and she was nauseous. She had dreamed of a bottle of coke being thrown at her head. She had dreamed of an entire room of faceless people laughing as the sticky beverage ran over her face. She had a terrible migraine and a stomach ache that made her want to crawl back under the covers and remain there until the world ended.
She was shivering and sweating at once; in short she’d got all the symptoms of the flu. But she knew better. She was anxious and it made her physically ill. Every time it was the same thing, no matter how hard she tried to control it. She couldn’t swallow any breakfast: the mere thought of eating made her gag. She knew it was a bad idea but she couldn’t help it. If she but tried to shove anything down her throat, she’d throw up.
Today, she was presenting her research in front of the class. And she was terrified. She hated oral presentations with a passion. If asked, she would answer that she loathed being the centre of attention. Sitting or standing at the front of the classroom with 30 pairs of eyes trained on her, like some 60 eyed-monster ready to eat her alive was the nightmare of all nightmares for Carla. Her hands were already moist with perspiration and she still had a good 4 hours to go.
This day would be a torment. If only the course were the first one; at least, she’d be done with it but no! There were two classes before and not any lessons: international law and political philosophy, her two most important classes that semester. Her eyelids twitched as they sometimes did when she was overly stressed. Like right now. Oh she knew her research was solid: her teacher said so only days before when he read her presentation outline. But that didn’t make it easier.
Needless to say Carla had trouble concentrating during her lessons and her classmates asking every so often if she was ready, didn’t help at all. She’d nod, tight lipped, trying her very best not to throw up on her desk.
A few minutes before the end of their international law class, things got out of control. Her ears started buzzing and her temperature spiked, her hands so sweaty that the pen she was holding started slipping through her fingers. Her heartbeat became so erratic she had trouble breathing, and the more she tried to calm down, the harder it was. Stars appeared in her vision, before everything turned dark. She clenched her fist, planting her nails in her palms to keep her grip on reality. In vain. Things were…
“Alex,” she breathed to her neighbour. “I’m going to faint.”
She tried to grab her best friend’s hand but she failed. And when she opened her eyes, she was lying on the floor, her head on a pillow made of her coat. The professor had obviously dismissed the class. Only she and Alex remained.
“How are you feeling?” She asked.
She was shivering and the splitting headache that had somewhat receded, was back with a vengeance.
“Here, eat this.” Professor Phillips handed her a granola bar. Carla really didn’t feel like eating at all. Her hands were trembling as she took the bar from her teacher. She had no strength. Alex gave her a can of orange juice.
“Does this happen frequently?”
“No… never. I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine. But I’ll be charging Mr. Peterson here to look after you for now. I’ll be speaking with Mr. Thatcher.”
“No, no really.” She could barely keep the panic from her voice. “I’m fine.”
Decided to prove she was, Carla stood. She was shaky on her legs but she held onto Alex for balance. She didn’t want anyone to think she’d tried to weasel out of her presentation.
“Are you certain?”
“Yes. I’m ok. Really. Thank you Mrs. Phillips.”
She didn’t look convinced but she didn’t press the issue. She might later. She sent the both of them onto their next lesson. Holding Alex’s arm as if her life depended on it, Carla tried to gather her wits. She didn’t need this. She was stressed enough as it was.
“I never realized it was this traumatizing for you.” She shrugged. “I mean you’re part of the NMUN simulation. And you will be on stage for that musical workshop in 2 weeks.”
She knew; she was a little bit of a masochist. But really how else was she supposed to get rid of that fear? How could she explain the shame? Middle school had a way of leaving invisible scars…
“I have to get over it. If I can’t, how am I ever going to go through an interview process for a job?”
“You’re definitely trying your best.”
“And so far failing, but I won’t give up.”
“I know.” He kissed her cheek just before they reached Mr. Thatcher’s classroom. “You’ll be great.”
She wished she could believe him.