How To Feel Safe
Feel vulnerable all the time for no apparent reason. Experience it most at two in the morning when you’re walking home alone to your empty apartment. Order delivery just so you can see someone’s face before you fall asleep. You used to wake up to the smell of your mother’s pancakes wafting through your room and now it’s leftover chicken tika marsala. Decide that you need a new smell to wake up to.
Scan the news for stories about your generation, things that could imply there’s a new problem. Lock your doors, twentysomethings. Your reflection is coming to get you. People are still getting stabbed and murdered but that’s nothing novel. Your parents always end a phone call with “Be safe.” It’s frightening how much they don’t get it.
Think back on moments when you felt safe. Remember the fall of your senior year of college. You were wearing a lot of oversized flannel back then and sleeping with someone who made you feel like you had a purpose. On the weekends, you went to house parties where you knew everyone and everyone knew you. I’m talking about a time when it wasn’t so easy to be anonymous. I’m talking about a time when you had to be accountable and couldn’t just disappear to that one friend’s apartment in Greenpoint whenever you wanted to. There was a rhythm happening that held you together. Somewhere along the way though, it got disrupted and you began to fade into streets, into walls, into your bed. This is when you began to feel uncomfortable and wishing for the Sunday morning pancakes.
Do funny things to make yourself more protected. Listen to that Washed Out song that makes you feel warm and fuzzy in your bathtub while sipping gingerly from a glass of Maker’s Mark. In that moment, you feel enveloped in a cocoon. Nothing could touch you. You’re successfully shielding yourself from all that can harm you. When you get out of the bath, rub lotion up and down your legs and hang your feet out the window. Burn a candle. Feel soooooo safe. This is your security: The perfect song, cocoa butter, the perfect candle and a fall breeze. Who needs parents when you have this?
That was a few years ago though and the tricks have since stopped working. You can take a thousand baths and burn a thousand candles and still never feel safe. What happened? You still go to house parties where you know everyone and everyone knows you but…it’s different. Things aren’t held together by adhesive. They’re held together by “Hi” and “Let’s hang out soon, okay?” That kind of glue doesn’t hold. You take a cab home and feel like an exposed piece of flesh that could be swept away at any moment. Everything feels so delicate. Lock the damn door.
Go home to your parents and have them drive you around in their car. Have them massage your scalp while watching the television. Have them plan out your day for you. They’ll look for you when you don’t show up. That feels nice, doesn’t it? Stop disappearing into walls, streets, that apartment in Greenpoint. Show up for yourself. Only then can you truly begin to feel safe.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.