When I was little my mother told me, “one day a truck might hit you and you won’t look so adorable.’ Looking back now, I realize that perhaps my mother was encouraging me to develop character or a better personality or, at least, some morals. Of course, that’s not the message I took away, mostly because I’ve been called a character, have a winning personality (everyone says so), as well as a loose set of morals that can adapt to this crazy shifting world (I’m not going to pretend that I preach a standard of behavior; then I might become a hypocrite or a person who comments on a message board).
What I heard in that instant, as a small child who often relied on a toothy grin to frame other people for her infractions (I ruined recess for some kids, and maybe even some lives), was that danger lurked around every corner and a task as simple as crossing the street was fraught with dangers. Already as a child I had an overactive imagination for irrational fears. I used to dress up nice for bedtime because I was certain a vampire would sneak into my room (thanks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the movie; thanks vampire David Arquette), and I just wanted to make sure my corpse looked nice. Superficiality ran concurrent with my paranoia. I also thought a shark lived underneath my pool. I would only swim around the edges, biding my time until appeared in our pool water. A better person might have told her family, but I decided to sacrifice them so that I could make it to safety. I always did want to be an only child and my mom was criticizing my personality. My father could live: he brought me home cookies from work.
I would thrive in the hunger games.
Here’s the thing, I didn’t even live in an area with a lot of trucks. I was a suburban kid: I should have been watching out for dissatisfied neighbors driving home drunk from an afternoon at the Applebees. But trucks? I only really knew them from the TV and Smokey and the Bandit. Why were trucks suddenly driving so recklessly through my tree-lines neighborhoods? Why were they hitting adorable children in the face and ruining their one skill in life? My dad would have to drag me across the street while I screamed at him about the danger of crazy trucks – we’ll get to the paranoia my dad instilled. I think eventually all my prophetic words to the neighborhood kids got the parents to start a group against trucks. Sometimes suburban parents have a lot of extra time to waste on non-existent issues.
Sometimes my parents got mad when I came home with a participation ribbon. They knew I participated. Why did the school waste money on a ribbon? Honestly, I mostly awards because I liked to destroy the competition. Again, the Hunger Games. But also, I once won a math award, so…I’m not saying people who do well in math don’t have many friends, I just don’t and happen to be good at math. I happen to be bad at being nice.
I haven’t been hit by a truck yet (knock on wood), already a woman in her 30s (I’d be lucky to have a truck hit me and end it all) and day by day I cross the street with more confidence (which one should never have in Boston. People here will murder you with their car because Boston cars hate people. People in Brookline are so rich in their fancy cars they don’t even recognize poor people who have to walk*); yet I’m still the paranoid person that my mother created. My phobic state culminated during a week when I lived on my couch because I was certain that I would die if I left its safety. (I did leave to take out my dog and it was harrowing. One day an acorn fell on his head, so he began to understand how I felt). I just got really nervous that all my organs stopped working. How would I know? (well, liver, I know). My organs don’t alert me to how they’re doing. And yet, they are mine. Or are they? I’m not an organ donor because I’m afraid I would haunt the person my organs went in.
That is just one of my very rational fears. Thoughts of organ failure should cause terror in us all. Many things should terrify us all. The list below is just a handful, but they’re the reason I drink mass quantities of chamomile tea and once went to a therapist – it just didn’t work out. He wanted me to see the world as a Lisa Frank folder and that terrified me.
Things that frighten me:
Random Death Outside: I’m not thoroughly afraid of dying, that is unless my student loans follow me into Hell. With the way Trump is deregulating everything, I wouldn’t be surprised. But I am very afraid of dropping dead in the middle of the street. I’m okay with dropping dead in my apartment, but out in the street, it feels a bit embarrassing. I just don’t want people looking at me weird. People at work think I’m weird because I don’t walk outside without my ID and insurance card (plus some bottled water and a granola bar – you never know! Zombie apocalypses never announce themselves. Hm, I should also keep a bottle of vodka with me). But if I do drop dead, I want my body identified.
Also I hope that I don’t knock out my teeth. I also hope I don’t poop myself, but I heard that you do. I eat so many vegetables.
Crossing Intersections: Not because of trucks but because they seem so far! You walk into an intersection and it’s like right in the open air. There’s nothing to hold onto. You just have to cross. Sometimes I think the street and I will tilt into each other or that the tar will eat me. I sometimes just have to stare at my feet and hope for the best. I wish that I could use my phone as a distraction, except I know that it’s a distraction so it makes me feel even more terror because I know that I’m distracting myself from the danger of an intersection. Or just life.
I might survive the Hunger Games, but I wouldn’t survive Aleppo. How do people live under such stressful situations? Seriously? My fears aren’t even real.
Gravity: I don’t trust it. What if gravity becomes so strong it pulls in the moon? Or so unstrong that it lets me fly into outer space? I don’t understand science! How can I be science and not understand it? Why did all my high school science teachers suck? Really the only thing that I remember from high school biology is that my teacher went as the headless horseman one year and kids stole his candy. Gravity made his candy bag fall when the big kids knocked it out of his hands.
And how do planes defy gravity? They’re too big and gravity is too invisible. It’s like the air.
Outer Space: Too big. Filled with too many things and older than the old people who insist on using self-checkout at the grocery store – ma’am, sir, I’m sorry, but self-checkout is for people with no patience and in a self-made hurry. (the only time I’m in a hurry is when I know I’ve left my dog alone too long and he’s going to have a shit explosion.). Space is like infinity, which isn’t even a number (side note: I really only know how to count in German. I’ve ignored learning numbers in every other language). Also aliens. I don’t want to become a pet for an alien. I’m too apathetic to play fetch or show affection. I’d also have accidents in the house.
Water: why is it made out of things we can’t breathe and yet make up so much of my body? Why am I putting so much of it into my body? Why is it slowly covering all the Earth? Well, global warming is the answer to that last question (yeah, that freaks me out too which is a real fear). Enjoy cars while you have roads to drive on.
…wait, change my mind. Water’s good. Removes the issue with the trucks.
Boats: they are basically trucks on the water and they are usually manned by pirates. Plus they capsize. The scariest thing in the world is one of those whale watching boats. Those people are either going to shove a small child overboard to catch site of a whale tale (like a real whale’s tale, not a 90s whale tale. Are thongs still a thing or a women over that form of torture. I proudly wear underwear) or turn over the boat with their own momentum as they run from side to side. I think whales are dumb. I prefer squirrel watching. I already found like 10 today and eight were alive.
I used to think dead baby birds were sad, but I have this gang of birds that wake me up every morning at 5, so now I don’t.
Pictures of old people on my computer: When I see old-timey photos on my computer, I sometimes think that they’re going to come to life and look at me. None have yet, that I’ve noticed, but don’t tell me that it might not happen. Even when I scroll done, I imagine that the picture is crawling up my screen to greet me. Then I remember old-timey people don’t know how to use computers. But they do when they’re ghosts. God, I hated the Ring. Why did she come through the TV? I love the TV. If I have a daughter I will never throw her in a well, no matter how awful she is.
Birthing Babies: I’m not made for motherhood. I’m not one of those people who gives the kneejerk response ‘I hate kids.’ I actually like some kids, usually the ones that my friends produce or any child that behaves in a human-like manner. I hate most children whose parents have cultivated a precociousness that isn’t there, mostly to get them on a reality show or to brag. But it’s not the kids’ fault. Just like it wouldn’t be my child’s fault for whatever I managed to create.
I like to make gingerbread houses. I feel like the end result would be like my child.
But mostly I know where babies come from and it’s gross. They live inside you for nine months. Think about that, a human is swimming inside your stomach for 9 months. I get anxious when I don’t pass Chinese food fast enough. And then they come out your coot and destroy it. If I was pregnant, I’d feel like I was locked in a prison with no good escape routes. Children are the reason I believe in God. Only a deity that could make a platypus would also make a pee hole the only exit for a baby. Oh, what a sense of humor that one has.
Also my body will kill me to save the baby. Thanks, body, for another betrayal. Between my lying organs and mass amounts of drowning waters I’m going to assume you’re the US gov’t and I’m a citizen.
Nuts: Could be allergic. Don’t know. On the flip side, if I had a gluten allergy, I’d still fucking eat bread. You only live once, kids.
Obviously, clowns: at this point we all know that every clown is a serial killer. So, why are people still taking up the profession? Who pretends to be happy all the time when you can see that they’re dead inside? You can’t paint a smile into those eyes; unless you’ve been trained by Tyra Banks and that is called smizing.
Weather: My dad once pointed to a rain cloud and said that it looked like a tornado cloud – I had recently watch the Wizard of Oz so I knew about the weather phenomenon. I quickly rain inside and started on my tornado safety shelter in the basement with a drawn out plan of evacuation, which mostly centered on getting the dogs into the basement because dogs don’t understand dangerous weather conditions. I spent a lot of time playing in our basement because all my favorite toys were stored there. Because my dad had only pointed at a regular cloud, I still think during every thunderstorm that I might be swept away to a place where flying monkeys are the bad guys instead of being appreciated for how cool they really are. They’re monkeys that fly and wear little suits!
The Letter U: This is the letter U under very particular circumstances: 1) it’s a muppet; 2) it’s chasing me; 3) Smokey Robinson’s You Really Got a Hold on Me is playing in the background; 4) I’m unable to escape. Please see this video to understand fully this terror and its origin point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ws_vnXup7so
Why is the letter U so okay with sexually harassing Smokey Robinson. He is an American treasure? And why does why sound like y when I’m talking about the letter u?
I was once on a date and told my date about this fear and he took it in stride. I broke up with him later because I was afraid that he was smothering me.
And last but not least, fear itself. Because thanks a lot fucking FDR. I live in terror of terror and everything else. Pardon me, I believe a land shark is at my door (yeah, I was also afraid of that as a kid).
*I once tutored for a family in Brookline who had a tennis court in their backyard. I kept waiting for them to ask me to use the service entrance until I realized that they did. It was the entrance through the garage. The mother also asked that I not eat food while I tutored – I’d munch on a granola bar because I had to walk a mile from the t-stop to get to their manor and it was noon, so I was hungry and I have blood sugar issues, or so I believe. I almost got my doctorate, so I’m qualified. They also short changed me on pay.