The second time that The Fear struck was on my birthday. I think my eleventh. My father gave me two tickets to see the Toronto Maple Leafs. A Leaf hockey game for me then was the ultimate experience. I took a friend as my father didn’t really like hockey and thought that I might be happier on my own. The seats were great – center-ice reds – and we were up on the visiting team early. And then it hit me again. It wasn’t as strong as the first time. I seemed almost to have control over it. I could rationalize it.
Why was I sitting here watching this nonsense? Who gave a damn who scored what and when? The whole thing was a farce designed to brainwash and control. Nobody cared about winning. It was the popcorn, furs and dinners, the money, being part of the scenery that people cared about. The blue leaf could just as well be a red wing. I especially hated the silence between play, the organ occasionally filling that with carnival tunes. Eventually, it passed, but the evening had been depressing. We had won, but I didn’t give a damn. I just wanted to go home and get into bed.
Anton Chekov said, “Formerly, when I didn’t know that they read my tales and passed judgement on them, I wrote serenely, just the way I eat bilini; now I’m afraid when I write.” The fear is not only in craft but also content. My fear is of being attacked from behind, most strongly at a drinking fountain, my teeth smashed into the metal. What are my worst moments, my very worst – denying my mother, stealing, hateful, violence, vice upon vice – and what would these crimes look like together, my reel of pettiness and sin? And would any of these moments make a good story?
I remember being afraid of the dark. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of the water, the sharks, the depth and sliminess. I remember lying in my bed, scared of my dreams, scared of what was to come, scared of things on my little body, scared I would die of something too young. I checked for early signs of a heart attack. I ran from wasps. I hid in tiny places I was afraid of. I didn’t want to be alone. I’m still afraid of that. And all of the other things too.
I’m older, not wiser, afraid as ever. I want to get out of that. I want to find myself, some truth, something that will make me the notion I hold inside or holds me. It’s a funny thing, this interior battle, wanting to be another, wiser, braver me. I play that game. And then I pretend that I don’t. I’m better than that. I’m okay with who I am. That’s what I say to myself. That’s my little self con. And I beat myself up and stay hiding, almost believing in my dreams, myself, but more than that, stay that kid screaming inside.
I can’t move my head. Not even my shoulders. I am pinned, a bright side light on my face and neck.
I am flat and horrible, my eyes wide, stuck against the ground. Stuck there, panicking. I can’t even move my leg. I have no control. I am completely helpless, trapped by monsters, people I don’t know, who have left me here to die, to be tortured and think nothing of it.
I try to close my eyes to make it go away, but it is still there. I can’t move. I want to scream but I can’t even do that. I am stuck in this silence with not even myself, with nothing but my labored miserable loneliness.