He was going to die!
He knew it. His breath came in short gasps and he was feeling faint. His hands were going numb with a tingling sensation in them. He was losing control and time and space seemed to stand still- everything looked surreal. So, this is what dying feels like, he thought to himself. His heart was beating faster and he looked around for a place to sit.
He began to have flashbacks of moments in his life. His mind went back to the day he met Jane, yes, the happiest day of his life. Even at the face of imminent death, a smile broke out on his face at the memory.
He had been wandering around in the park that evening and looking for a distraction. He could remember thinking to himself when he saw her that he had seen just that, only it was not what he had in mind.
She was tall and slender; light complexioned with an oval face that was creased in a frown. Her head was bent over her phone and she looked worried. She was dressed in a black tee shirt over sky blue denim trousers and a pair of loafers.
He would later find out that she had been reading a text message from her mother that her father’s condition had taken a turn for the worse. At that instant, a sudden desire to wipe that frown from her face and replace it with a smile overwhelmed him. He could imagine how radiant her face would be. He saw her blink rapidly trying to fight off tears but not managing to hold off a tear drop from rolling down the corner of her eyes.
He did not know how he got to her side, but he found himself standing in front of her and introducing himself. She looked confused like she didn’t know how she got there and nodded absently at him. Without thinking, he held her gently by the arms and led her to a nearby bench where they sat in silence.
After a while she put her face in her hands and sobbed gently, her whole body racked with spasms. He held her gently, till the sobbing subsided. When she finally lifted up her face, they were red and swollen but the look of anguish and confusion had left them. Her change in demeanor was noticeable as she realized that she was in the presence of a complete stranger. She apologized and asked for his name again, and thanked him for being supportive.
That night he had walked her back to her house despite her persistent decline of his offer. All through the walk, his heart had been beating faster and he had been short of words but fortunately, she was not in the mood for talking. She was lost in thought. At her doorstep, she thanked him again and gave him her number at his request.
The next day when he called her, she had sounded more cheerful and had invited him over for dinner to thank him for the previous day. He had enjoyed her company thoroughly that night, and they talked for a long time into the night. She had told him about her family and her father who was in the hospital and was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. It took great effort to leave her house that day after spending three hours together.
Their relationship had not started on a rosy note, about a week later, her father had died and she was saddled with the responsibility of arranging the funeral and attending to the numerous guests who came to the house to pay their condolences. He had admired her strength and courage in those days and he was very excited when she had allowed him to help.
Not once did she cry during those days, not until the night of the funeral, when all the guests had gone and she was alone with him. He was about to leave and she had hugged him and thanked him for being there. There in the hallway, she had broken down, unable to hold the tears any longer.
They had stood there, her face buried in his chest as she wept uncontrollably, the sounds muffled by his shirt, and he holding her gently and rocking her. At that moment he had known where he wanted to be for the rest of his life; with her, to be a shoulder for her to lean on.
Now, there was a churning in his stomach and he was getting nauseous. How could he die now? He thought frantically; when Jane was due to give birth in two days. Life was unfair! Just when things were going fine and smooth and he was looking forward to fatherhood, he was going to have to leave it all behind.
Just then, he felt a hand touch him from behind and a voice saying:
”Here, take this and breathe into it”.
He took the brown envelope from the stranger feebly and breathed into it several times.
Slowly, he began to feel blood flow into his arms again and the churning in his stomach began to subside. He was feeling clear headed again, and his breathing became steady.
”there you go” said the stranger in a chirper voice,”you were just having a panic attack”.