The Beat

There is consistency in the world outside. It beats at a constant rhythm. You can always count on the noise to try and revive you from the oblivion. It is as good as the sun shining every day, continuous, dependable and there at the threshold of your home. It is the only thing that you can count on. The only thing that will never let you down, the rhythm of life, the noise of existence and the knowledge of your own heartbeat.

As soon as I step out of my home, I am engulfed in all sorts of sounds, smells and intrusions. The world is grim even though the sun is shining. Yet, however grim the world seems, it is not as grim as my insides. Something inside me threatens to engulf me whole. Even though in the past, being alone used to help, now it seems to make it worse. I seek the regularity of the outside, the knowledge of other heartbeats, the comforting noise of echoing footsteps, the warmth of crudely shouted sentences as I cross the street, and the disappointed looks of passerby. They remind me that I am not alone, that there is worse and that I haven't experienced it yet. I shudder at the thought, the possibilities and the tragedy. I know it exists, it is just outside my reach, it closes up on me and tells me that I might be its next victim. Life threatens me. It nudges me into being more of a functioning human being. It warns me about the consequences of disobeying, and of its possible vengeance. Everything around me tells me to be more thankful; I utter a quick "Al Hamd le Allah" under my breath, and try to be a good, breathing, human being. I am too aware of something being wrong when I realize that I have stopped breathing. I fan my face with my hands, trying to direct air into my nostrils, in attempt to revive the life in me. With the absence air for a few seconds, whatever inside me that keeps threatening to engulf me, expands. It fills my heart, my lungs, my abdomen; it feels like I am choking from the inside out. Air is there, but I just can't take it in. My fanning hands bring more air across my face, but instead of helping me breathe, it feels as if the air is suffocating me. The nausea sets in, and my stomach starts to lurch, but nothing comes out.  I stand up as the world sways by; the dizziness has set in, and the constricting feeling in my chest is strengthened. Then I realize, just another panic attack.

I haven't had one of those in years. It is a sign of my derailment. Whatever has been tamed in the past few years has now broken free, wild, angry and looming. It is hungry as well, I can tell by its consuming feeling. Just like a prisoner, set free from its shackles, it is looking for what it has been starved from- me. I am its only sustenance. It gnaws at me from inside, clawing its way out. However, the only way out is my own destruction. I have ruled this option out years ago. I know I will never go back. The battle is on, or at least continues after years of truce.

I have no idea what brought it on or back. It is just there, and I either cave in or fight. The last time, it took years of support from my family and a final accident, where I broke my ankle and had to have surgery, to snap me back into life. It was then, I made a decision to fight. Today, I need nothing to remind me. I had already made my decision years ago. This time, I know I must fight.

I go back to my father, sometimes, to remind myself of life. He is very good at the game. He, along with my mother, are survivors and lovers of life. For some reason, this concept failed to be passed on to me. Life has been my enemy since adolescence, with some short stints of calm in between. The calm is usually brought on my distractions; work, studying, emergencies, etc... I have always been functional in the midst of the worst waves of it. I guess somewhere inside, there is a survivor, deep inside, trying to fight that gnawing, ever consuming feeling. My decision to fight alone deems it a winner. I only need to sustain it. I need to run, hide, avoid, escape and bury myself in the noise, the beat of life.

My family have always commented on how I make no noise, that I am so calm when I am sitting all by myself on the sofa, reading or surfing the web. They praise me for being so quite. If the television is not on, they usually don't see me or hear me. It is not that I am invisible, but the noise I make seems -to them at least- minimal. Many times, I have startled my mother's cook as I go into the kitchen to get a dish. She would jump and utter something religious, and then tells me I startled her. I apologize, but it never seems enough to calm her. I attribute my noiseless existence to my inability to live. However, I am pretty sure that if I lived with some Tibetan monks, I would be the noisiest one yet. After all, it is all about perspective.

After feeling a bit more like a human, the noise, the smell and the smoke starts to engulf me, and this time I am actually choking from the outside in. Life is too much for me now, I have to flee. The game of back and forth, as always, rages on. I just have to go on long enough, hang on long enough until the light extinguishes. The only certain thing I know.


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