Years ago, I wrote down a list of silly things that scared me, like leaving the space heater on at night. I preferred to shiver in my windowed porch bedroom all winter long for fear that the space heater would revolt and set the place on fire. I slept in my clothes sometimes, in expensive cashmere sweaters that never held up their end of the bargain. I don’t know why I wrote this list, or what I did with it, but for some reason I felt more protected when my fears were written down somewhere.
There’s a weird, quiet fear that sometimes creeps in when you live alone. Sometimes you wake up at 3 AM and have to draw all the blinds to make sure no one’s looking in. You learn to identify all the creaks and bumps in the night and try not to be startled when there’s a new one, out of the ordinary. I’ve taught myself to sleep through most of them now.
“You should try meditating,” they say.
When I was 15, there were two car accidents in two months. Two fatal car accidents, I mean. I feel like that doesn’t need to be clarified. There was a Sunday afternoon birthday party that turned into a whiplash of tragedy in just a few minutes, and a few weeks later, there were two shiny coffins on our equally shiny gym floor.
These accidents were the kind that stun a tiny town out of its regular bucolic wholesomeness for awhile. The kind that stop those cocky farm boys from taking curves too fast on gravel roads – just for a little while, anyway. Their immortality eventually returns. It seemed as though we’d just been in the passenger seat of someone’s car while they drove recklessly, hanging on and laughing because we were fearless and young. “Think about what you did,” that month seemed to say. We obeyed for awhile, but like dumb teenagers, we went back to our old ways after a decent amount of time had passed.
Sometimes I forget how tenuous and dangerous things are behind the wheel of a car. I should remember that more often. People on their way to see you could just disappear and they too could be that colorless figure on the side of the road. It’s not that I’m afraid of cars; I’m afraid of forgetting their power. Eventually, everything you fear happens. I’m afraid of forgetting.
I wake up disoriented in the early hours, and I walk to the bathroom for water. I lean my face towards the window and inhale hard, sucking in cold winter air. I try not to waste time. I do not leave cords plugged into the wall. I do not leave the door unlocked. I do not leave lights on.
I used to, making a path from my doorway to my bedroom. But when we had grown tired of each other, there was no point it anymore. I didn’t need the lights; I knew the way.