Yeah Write #473- Baby Needs

Baby Needs

by

Shannon Barber

The word afraid was nothing to me. I was afraid of plenty of things. Clowns, birds, riding in cars sometimes, the shadowy figures of people on the periphery of my vision. I was afraid most of the time. It sat with me and on me, it was a constant companion for a lonely only child. I liked afraid, afraid felt familiar.

I didn’t know fear, real fear until it reached out with smooth cool fingers and wrapped around my coccyx as I stood on the basement steps of our big house in Tacoma staring down into the dusty darkness. I understood something beyond being afraid or uncomfortable, I began to understand the tingle and the giddy temptation of fear.

Once I had the touch of it, the forbidden knowledge that it could make my spine go icy and electric, I needed it. I started a habit. I had a Jones.

Climb onto the roof of our house and stand there watching like Bat Man.

Climb a tree until even the neighbor boy squealed.

Swing until the world turned upside down and let go.

Leap.

Dad jumping out at me wearing the terrifying two headed mask. I flew up from the basement to the protection of my Mother’s thighs.

I still loved it.

The touch.

My habit never got better. The need is never fulfilled. When the fear comes to teach me to not go in there, don’t fight with that man, I just want more.

For a split moment in time as the fear reaches into me I am an infinite screen. I am five years old and shivering in the dark because my Mom put the clown in my room, I am ten and my teeth are bared in a rictus of terror and rage when I look down the open work stairs and imagine tumbling to my death, I am 21 in a strangers’ apartment, deciding if we’re going to fuck or fight. I am 43 and without a mask.

Afraid is a word that means little to me, I am the same child and walk with afraid as close as my own skin. And now, I know fear. I have fear. Fear loves and abides and waits to take me again and I will give in because, I don’t know anything else.

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7 thoughts on “Yeah Write #473- Baby Needs

  1. I liked how you progressed through the ages and over time until you came to today. I raised my eyebrows at that unexpected “43 and without a mask.” It brought it full circle.

  2. the batman metaphor. nice!

    i know it may feel unnecessary to wear a mask, especially when you cannot see the foreign invader, nor can you feel it if you are an asymptomatic carrier. but as a nurse and family on front frontlines, i do hope you would kindly reconsider, for your neighbors, the safety of public health, and others around you.

    despite our differing opinions, i enjoyed reading your writing.

  3. The ending really did bring this full circle. I absolutely loved the line “I am 43 and without a mask” as it really brought home that our childhood fears are being lived in even now. Wonderful work, Shannon!

  4. The mask — lord. All the considerations that have to go into the wearing of a mask during this pandemic when you’re a PoC, especially when you’re Black and fear is forcibly ingrained into your bones. This was so powerful, and there’s so much to consider and you do such a lovely job of introducing those things subtly and gently.

  5. Pingback: YeahWrite #473 Weekly Writing Challenge Winners

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