Throbbing head. Wrenched gut. She knew this feeling.
She had just a couple of minutes before the sensation would spread from her gut, through her veins, and reach her heart. The paralysis was impending.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
The monster first appeared two months ago. In her bedroom. It had the courtesy to introduce itself in private. It rocked her out of her chair where she sat sorting her emails. Fast heartbeats. Choked. No one to watch as she lay on the floor holding her head in her hand, waiting for the sensation to pass.
Today she was at her desk – privy to the eyes of her colleagues.
She had to escape.
She grabbed her water flask and dashed towards the corridor. Head down.
Washroom? No. The mirror would reflect the monster.
Coffee pod? Not really. Many prying eyes and ears gathered there.
An empty meeting room? The glass walls would not serve her need for privacy.
Fire exit stairways.
She ran down the stairs until she reached the basement door.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Tears started flowing from her eyes as she gulped water to calm herself down. Her spine rested against the wall. Is this how it was going to be now, she thought. Was she doomed to live with this monster forever?
Ten minutes passed. The monster was still there.
Enough, she decided. She couldn’t go on living like this. She had to end this.
With sweaty palms, she pulled out her phone from her trouser pocket to call the only person she trusted.
Her elder sister.
But then she stopped. How would her elder sister feel? All the effort she put into building her little sister up, grooming her, making her the woman she had become today. It would break her heart to hear her little sister so beaten down.
She put the phone back into her pocket and sat on the stairs – head between her knees.
The gloom of every day. The lack of safe spaces. The fear of failure. The dread of waking up. Meeting unrealistic expectations. The constant fear of judgment. The never-ending ladder to success. Each thought revolved like concentric circles in her brain.
“Viki,” she heard a familiar voice. Startled, she rubbed her face against her cotton trousers, hoping to erase her tears, before she looked up to acknowledge the intruder’s presence.
It was TK. A part of Viki was relieved. TK was one of those few colleagues who exuded nurture rather than ruthlessness. Why was she here, though, Viki thought.
Tuesday afternoon pilates, Viki remembered. And, of course, TK was taking the stairs because she was claustrophobic.
“Are you okay? Why are you sulking here?” TK asked, sitting next to Viki and grabbing her by the shoulder.
A warm smile. A look of concern. Viki couldn’t help but pour her heart out.
TK gave her a tight hug.
“You need to stop being so hard on yourself. I don’t give a damn if you fail or succeed at this job or any job for that matter. Who knows what the words success and failure even mean these days,” TK smiled.
Viki kept listening. The pace of her heartbeat eased.
“You stepped in for me on a Friday evening when I had a deadline to meet and care for my ailing mother. I know that you are smart, hardworking, and responsible, and if you do, god forbid, “fail” at something, it is just one part of your life. I will always see you as my responsible colleague who perhaps just got unlucky. No judgment,” TK added.
“But what if I chose to leave it all? What if I chose to follow my dream of becoming a hairdresser? Would you judge me?” Viki asked. She felt like a toddler searching desperately for validation from her mother.
“If you become a hairdresser, I will bully all my friends to come and get their hair dressed by you. My affinity is with the human in you. Not your title. That won’t change – unless you start running a salon cartel. Then I might need to consult a lawyer,” TK smiled.
A smile escaped Viki’s lips too. It felt refreshing opening up to a pair of eyes that first saw her as a human, above everything else.
The throbbing in Viki’s head started to fade. The monster began to recede. Slowly and gradually.
“Coffee?” TK smiled.
This post is authored by Nikki S, a London based aspiring author. If you would like to get in touch with Nikki S, please drop a line at email@example.com