In response to The New York Times article “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing”
10. What Are You Afraid Of?
I am afraid of answering this question.
I am afraid of answering any of the “Overcoming Adversity” questions.
I am afraid of uploading my answer to this blog.
I am afraid of what people might think.
I am afraid no one will read it.
I am afraid someone will read it.
I am afraid you won’t comment.
I am afraid you will comment.
I am afraid of answering question 1, the one about challenges I’ve overcome.
I am afraid I have never overcome any challenges.
I am afraid that I have overcome challenges, but that they are not meaningful compared to someone else’s challenges.
I am afraid of what other people might think.
I am afraid of what my parents will think.
I am afraid of you. And yet you could be anyone, you are everyone.
I am afraid of the Publish button, and so I hit Schedule.
I’m afraid there’s no God.
I’m afraid not of death, but of sickness, afraid of how being sick affects my weekly routine, afraid of how when we get sick its because someone didn’t wash their hands or someone coughed in our face, unless its something more serious and then its our own body against us. But in any case, it sucks, and I worry.
I’m afraid this post will read irrational, and I’m afraid I’ll go scroll up and edit.
Because, yes, I am afraid of answering this question.
I am afraid of spirals.
I am afraid of rooms where the walls don’t meet at 90 degree angles.
I am afraid of not actually being afraid, because all my life I’ve felt different from everyone around me, and everyone around me is actually afraid, and what I see and what I hear and what I feel are my closest friends crying for help in the middle of the night and I in no way can comfort them, I feel I won’t say the right things, or worse, know when they’ve been dropped by the very darkness that had gripped them only a moment ago.
I am afraid of one day getting a certain call from my brother.
I am both afraid for the women in my life, and afraid of the women in my life.
I am afraid of walking out of my front door having forgotten my keys, so every time I step out, before I let the door close, I jam it with my foot and tap my right pocket twice just in case.
I am afraid of losing my eyesight every time I am reminded by the thought that I see better out of one eye and not the other. I had nightmares growing up were I was cross-eyed and became blind. In fact, I had many nightmares growing up.
I am afraid of losing my teeth. Other nightmares I had were about chewing food and suddenly munching on a crumbled tooth. In real life, one of my back molar got twisted while riding a bike, another time a front tooth snapped. Only the memory of an eighth grade history teacher telling the class that Washington had wooden teeth, or the passages where Don Quijote survives getting his mouth smashed in and bathed in blood, purge me. But then again, I’m afraid those are only stories.
I am afraid of how fast time passes by, I’ll look at a clock and fear knots my stomach as the second hand skips along faster and faster the longer I look at it, and really this is my central fear now, that life will simply go by, and all of my mistakes will come from trying to keep up with time. I’m afraid I’ll slip up and slip down a greasy slip n slide and fall onto some itchy wet grass. Growing up my biggest fear was wet grass.
I’m afraid I don’t normally admit to being afraid. My worst nightmares was this one that recurred around my pre-teen years: I’m chained to the floor at the end of a hall in my parents’ house. I’m on the end with the library. The opposite end leads to my parents’ bedroom. My feet face a wall of books, while I face a white ceiling above me, and yet when I turn my head back to look down the hall I see the door to their bedroom. The chains feel heavy on my wrists and ankles. I struggle to break free, but can’t. I turn back to my parents’ door. It looks grey amidst shadows that cut across the walls and the bottom edges of the hall. I know the door will open soon, so sweat forms under my armpits and over my forehead. The door opens. Out creeps the silhouette of a man. This is the scariest moment of my life, I think to myself in all variations of the dream. I force my eyes closed with the hope that when I pop them open I’ll awake. The first time I open my eyes, I see the man has gotten closer. I close my eyes a second time, and this time I do wake up. But I have the same dream again a few nights later.
Luckily, I haven’t had that dream in years.
And I am not afraid of wet grass