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.
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.
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.