One of the effects of our time in New York was that it turned down the noise in camparigirl’s mind. Dampening it to a soft burr: one she could tolerate as we tramped the streets of Manhattan. At times, though: the hum would amplify from white noise to an audible crackle, a sharp blast of feedback. I would hear it happen – and watch as the din changed the way she interacted with the people bedevilling her on the phone. I saw how it blurred her immediate environment and telescoped her in on a possibility – one that made her soul shriek and holler.
One we never named.
I would be stern with her: “Claudia – calm toi,” She would look at me and I would see the horror that filled her eyes. Bureaucratic snafus had become threats to her life. Petty rules and regulations had turned into weapons of war. Lazy secretaries had morphed into torturers. They were killing her.
“Just stop it now.”
That worked for a while. Until she boarded a plane: then icy waves filled the vacuum of our busy days and she wrote: “During the flight the fear and anxiety that were nearly gone in NY came back in full force…”
Fear is a feral fucker – it sneaks up on us hungrily when we’re wounded, vulnerable. It robs us of our fluidity, of the use of our limbs. Of fair language or rational thought. Of rhythm, of possibility, of hope, of equilibrium, of strength. It is insatiable. It magnifies. It revokes our ability to love others and ourselves.
Fear is an amnesiac, too. At the very instant we need our faculties, our strengths the most: we forget everything we know to be true. Yet, show me fear, let me touch it, hold it, taste it – and you can’t.
Danger, on the other hand, is real. A person with a bomb or a gun in our house is a deadly threat. The tumour in our breast is a bullet waiting tear flesh. These things are tangible, they exist. We can touch and see them. Fear is a weapon of our own creation; the deadly product of our thoughts. Where danger is actual – fear is a choice.
camparigirl told you about our evening with Patti Smith. It was the last night of our holiday and raining. On the way to the theatre we (predictably) got lost, and as Claudia tried to deal with her Health Insurance company we walked through the wet and cold. When we got to the Beacon Theatre, neither of us said anything for a while … until I admitted – “I hate flying these days, keep thinking the plane is going to go down.” Immediately she replied: “Oh god, me too. Never did before – but now I do all the time.”
We paused and then said together: “I don’t want to die.”
“You’re not going to”, I said. “You either.” she said.
The word has been surfaced. And for a few minutes, it was less scary.
If left to their own devices; the godawful events of this past weekend – the murders of our families, friends, colleagues, compadres in Paris, Beirut and Kenya – will cripple us. If left completely unattended; this horror will join forces with the losses we have suffered in the past. It will march brazenly up to the illness, the cancer, the uncertainty, the shame, the dread, the murder, the terrorism… and stand on the shoulders of those malevolent giants. Smiling in victory.
Fear will kick us in the ass. It will scare us from exercising our freedom. It will stop us eating, drinking, dancing, travelling, flying, falling, loving. It will stop us living while we can. It could even scare us to death.
That is, if we let it.