Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kid Fears

If you were to look down, out of the sky, hovering over a small house in a city far from here, you would see a scabby-kneed girl, a serious girl, a girl too old for her biological years. You might be able to feel the fear that rose up around her like a bubble, a tangible fear, a fear that followed her wherever she went.

On trips to the beach with its soft, sandy white shores, she would sit in the shallows where the sand under her was crested from the action of the waves. There she was safe from scary things in the deep, from seaweed that stretched out toward her ankles, from fish that might nibble on her toes, from monsters and goons.

On picnics, she sat on a blanket, or on the cement if there was cement nearby, for the grass might harbor small things that would crawl or bite. It might harbor glass shards, or rusty nails, or pop cans.

At school, she listened. She wrote. She read. But she wouldn't raise her hand, for fear that someone would laugh, or worse, that someone would notice her, when really she wanted to be invisible.

At home, her fears settled over her like the sky. Darkness, dogs, the netherworld under the bed, lightning and thunder, high places, failure. She tried to imagine them away. Darkness was just the absence of light. Dogs could be vanquished with a sharp command. The only things under the bed were shoes and dust. Lightning and thunder were just manifestations of the weather. When she was nineteen and nearly invincible, she climbed the Eiffel Tower, putting one foot after the other on the open metal grillwork to prove to herself that she could conquer her fears.

But she is still surrounded by a bubble of fear, a fear of things much more personal--of pain and loss, of failure and the future--and she longs for the time when her only fears were of ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night.

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