TOP 6 TIMES I STOPPED TIME
(arranged according to my proximity to bodies of water)
6) When they were pulling my wisdom teeth out
I’m 19. The syringe is huge, as if it was meant for an animal way bigger than myself. “It doesn’t hurt. You’ll just feel some pressure, champ.” Pressure deep inside my jaw, against flesh and bone. So much pressure. My mouth feels numb. My face feels heavy. The doctor asks me if I’m ready. How should I know? Yes? I pull up my thumb. He gets comfortable and maneuvers his tools inside my mouth. “Pressure,” he says, but he’s pulling. Tugging and swirling. He sweats. Something starts breaking as he builds his circular momentum. Pressure deep and omnidirectional. “Inhale,” he says. I close my eyes and hold my breath. Everything stops. No pressure. No momentum. No creaking of my anesthetized bones. If I let go, everything will come back in an instant. No buildup, no momentum, no natural flow of physical exertion. “Just some pressure,” he’d say, if he could talk to me now. But all that pressure, all at once. Deep and omnidirectional. Bullets are just some pressure too. I brace myself. I breathe out. Pressure, sharp. Something cracks. “Good job, champ. Three more to go.”
5) When I counted up to 1000
I’m 7. We gather behind the soccer field during recess. “I can hold my breath the longest,” says the chubby boy as he puffs his chest and cheeks. We count, “1, 2, 3,” his face begins to redden, “33, 34, 35,” he starts flapping his arms, “64, 65, 66,” he exhales, eager. He pants. “Who’s next?” he asks, I step forward. I point to myself, demand attention. I take in a fat gulp of air, close my eyes and hold my breath. Silence. But I don’t need them to count for me. I know how to count myself. “1, 2, 3,” I start “33, 34, 35,” I keep going, “64, 65, 66,” this is easy, “83, 84, 85,” are they still there? “114, 115, 116,” he looked so tired. “137, 138, 139,” maybe it is because he is chubby, “151, 152, 153”, or maybe he was nervous. I get nervous as well. Sometimes. Where was I? Hundred something. This is boring. Quiet, and still. I’ve held my breath for so long. It must be like 800 now, or a 1000. Yes. 1000 seems right. “998, 999, 1000”. “I can hold it longer, but I got bored,” I say, smug. They laugh. “You didn’t make it to 2! Not even 2!”
4) Before running over a stray dog
I’m 24. It´s almost midnight and I´m tired. I just want to get home, so I speed a little bit. I´m thinking of tomorrow´s breakfast. Banana bread. Milk. A dog jumps out of nowhere and in front of my car. As if by instinct, I close my eyes and hold my breath. Was it a dog? Yes. Medium-sized, wooly. Definitely not a cat. Was it a stray? Probably. Most likely. Its fur looked unkempt. Dirty. A stray, yes. I think about my options. Can I stop? No. It’s too close. I’m going too fast. I may lose control and crash into one of the barriers. Can I dodge it? How far was it? 10, 20 meters. At this speed, that is less than a second. It’s too dangerous. I have to keep going. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, stray dog. You shouldn’t have jumped in front of my car. You really shouldn’t. Why would you do that? Stupid dog. Stupid. I’m sorry. Dog, I’m sorry. I open my eyes. Less than a second. Thump. A yelp. Barely audible. I’m wide awake now. I try not to dwell on the dog. Banana bread. Milk. Maybe a piece of chocolate.
3) Before I got hit by a truck
I’m 43. I’m walking down the street that leads to my house trying to recall the beat to that song I loved back in uni. Tatara, tatara, tarara... I hear a loud horn, turn around, close my eyes and hold my breath. Silence. The world is still. The first thing that pops into my head is the rest of the beat. Tatara, tatara, tarara, tararararara. There it is. I now think back to the moment before. A horn, loud. A truck, bright red, not five feet away from me. I have a very clear impression of certainty, the certainty that it will hit me. Could I jump out of its way? That seems unlikely. Probably worth the try, but I doubt I’d be able to even bend my knees before that red metallic mass connects to my body. I don’t know how fast the truck is going, but I can’t imagine a gentle collision. This is not good. Right. Dinner. If I loosen my breath, I don’t think I’ll make it to dinner. He was going to make pasta. I’m sorry. He was going to make me pasta. I’m so sorry. If I loosen my breath, he’ll sleep alone tonight. I think I’ll hold for a little longer.
2) The time I saw a ghost
I’m 12. Past bedtime, but I’m thirsty. I walk to the kitchen. Quiet. I don’t want to wake dad. As I pass by the living room I see, out of the corner of my eye, a figure. I gasp. Eyes closed, breath held. A figure. Yes. Human-sized, I think. Or bigger. A human-sized (or bigger) blurry figure in the middle of my living room. Did I see its face? No, I don’t think. But maybe. Maybe it was a man, old and grinning. Maybe he had long thin wings and thick fur. Maybe I saw his hooves. Maybe I saw, in that split second, his long, thin, silvery wings, and thick yellow fur and hooves, big, firmly pressed against the floor. His eyes, green. His teeth, brown. Did he see me back? Is he there, waiting for me to loosen my breath? Is his body as still as mine? What if, when I loosen my breath and open my eyes, his old grinny face is right there, inches away from mine. I imagine my heart beating fast. But it’s not really beating fast. I don’t think. I don’t think that when my breath is held, it beats at all. For the longest while, I focus on my calm, still heart. Did I really see his hooves? His wings? His face? Was he all that big? All that old? I breathe out, and as I open my eyes I see, right in the middle of the living room, a small translucent blur, child-sized, smaller than myself. A second later, it disappeared. I think I spooked him.
1) At the pool, with Boris
I’m 15. We’re playing in the pool. “Water ninja,” they said. We just have to take each other’s swimming caps. I like Water Ninja. I’m good at Water Ninja. I dive in and then emerge behind the tall kid. He’s a bit older, a bigger threat. I snap his cap and throw it outside the pool. “You’re out”, I say. He grunts and swims away. I manage to snap two more caps before the other team realizes I’m a priority target. Boris sneaks up behind me and put his arms around my chest. He holds tight. One of the other boys swoops in and snatches my cap. I’m a bit annoyed, but it was a good play. I’m out of the game, but Boris’ arms linger. Did he not realize they took my cap already? He’s grip has loosened a bit, but he doesn’t let go. I lean into him ever so slightly, close my eyes and hold my breath. I can’t really feel his skin touching mine while my breath is held, or how his heart beats against my back. But I remember. If I don’t loosen my breath, I can remember forever. If I don’t loosen my breath, he will never let go. Why did he linger, though? He probably wants to tell me something. Maybe he wants to grab something to eat, or go watch a movie, or talk to me about something important. Maybe he needs help. Maybe he needs help and I’m the only one who can help him. I open my eyes. He lets go. “Sorry bro, I didn’t realize they took your cap already.”