On Fear

Reed said, “I don’t think I’ll ever have a stepdad.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I think you’re just going to always be single,” he said.

“Why do you think that?” I asked.

“Because I’ve heard you say that.” he said.

Then he got very serious, and he said, “But I feel like you would be afraid. I have a hard time imagining that you would want to try that again after what happened with my dad.”

Reed is usually right.

I am afraid, and at this point, I don’t even know what I’m afraid of.

Am I afraid of being alone? Am I afraid of being with someone? Am I afraid of being with the wrong person? Am I afraid of being with the right person? Am I afraid of being a failure? Am I afraid of being successful? Am I afraid of not getting an academic job? Am I afraid of getting an academic job? Am I afraid of not publishing my book? Am I afraid of publishing my book?

The truth is that I am afraid of it all, and I am so tired of being afraid.

I had dinner plans with someone tonight, and he cancelled, but he waited until the last minute to do it, which peeved me.

A good friend stepped in and went to dinner with me, but as we were leaving the restaurant, a car drove by and almost veered into the car in front of us.

We nearly watched a head-on collision, then the car that was driving wildly veered around us, sped up, and gunned up a one-way street.

It was all very deliberate.

The car in front of us pulled over, and I pulled in behind it because I assumed that it knew what to do. Then, I realized that I wasn’t even in a parking spot, so I pulled out very slowly, and I looked at the driver, and he and I just stared at each other.

The driver of that dangerous car didn’t seem to be drunk. He had too much control (veering away from the car he was going to ram just in time). I told my friend that, to me, the situation looked like domestic violence.

I said, There was probably a woman in the passenger seat. He probably wanted to scare her. Being in control of a car is the ultimate control.

I said, I know this because Caleb did this. Maybe once. Or maybe twice. I don’t know. Maybe more times than that.

My friend laughed nervously, which was the proper response because my tone, as usual, was matter of fact, though I was describing something horrific.

I no longer feel fear in the same way that others do.

Last summer, at this time, I was in Europe.

The night before I left for Europe, I stayed with the only man I’ve actually cared about since Caleb. That man picked me up from my bus. We had dinner. We laughed. We watched some HBO. Then, I sat closely to him.

Then, we stayed up all night.

The next day, I went to the airport. I had a book advance shortly behind me, a residency ahead of me, and I had been fucked the night before.

I got a massage and a glass of wine at the airport.

I thought that I could escape my past, but I cannot escape my past.

So many people reach out to me about my writing. I am having some difficulty responding. I have real friends I have not written back to because I am so overwhelmed. People I have never met send me letters and presents. I am so blessed. Who else can claim to be so loved?

I do not deserve this love, yet I am afraid of losing it. Because, no matter what I receive in the mail, I am here.

On my couch alone in the early morning after someone has cancelled dinner plans with me.

When Caleb and I were together, he drove me everywhere–to the grocery store, to work and back.

He drove me to the point that I grew fearful of driving.

When I left him, I had to learn how to drive again, but then, I drove across the country, almost 4,000 miles, by myself, and I don’t think that’s something that a lot of women can say.

Suddenly, my fears felt conquerable.

And soon, one day, I was driving in the Badlands of South Dakota by myself.

The sky was large, and the grasses were full. The highway cut through the landscape like a ruler, and I was following its direction.

I have never regretted my decision.

I may be afraid, but I am not scared.