Falling

I decided to swing by Taco Bell on the way home – I was having to rush to therapy after work and needed something quick to eat. Unfortunately, the building sitting a bit off campus meant none of the sidewalks had been cleared.

I’ve always been terrified of ice. Back in Mt. Zion, one of the houses on the way to the bus stop had left their hose running for nearly a year. I was always curious why – didn’t that cost a ton of money? Did no one notice? Their driveway and the street was always covered in water. Winter that year must have come in with some heavy snow, skipping all the other nasty stuff. The walk was easy, but with that layer of snow I completely forgot about the hose. I fell hard – thankfully, my school had the tendency to overload us with homework and a stack of books softened the fall.

I wasn’t so lucky the week before my trip to Taco Bell – I was rushing to clear the car before heading out to catch Green Book and The Kid Who Would Be King for my two-movie-reviews-a-week goal. While stepping back inside, I fell hard on my back. I still ache a week and a half later, and considering the feeling, I might have done something to my tailbone. I just laid on the ground for a bit, afraid to get hurt again.

When I got safely to Taco Bell, I was paranoid enough that I called and asked you to pick me up. You jabbed at me – it was only two blocks from our house. But you came to my rescue anyway.

We got back home and I froze outside the car. The passenger side was covered in ice, and I asked if I could simply pass my food over the railing of our porch. If I did fall, I wanted to make sure my hands were at least free. You said sure, but then I realized any slight movement made me feel like I would lose my balance. Even one step to the railing seemed impossible.

So I panicked. I began crying hysterically. I don’t know what got me so scared to break down like that. You saw my tears and rushed down, placed by food on the ledge and took my hand. I felt so powerless, needing my ex-husband to guide me to safety.

After all that trouble to get food, I didn’t eat for fifteen minutes. I was so shaken I messaged my therapist and asked to reschedule, terrified of having to go back out there on the ice. I had so many plans for the evening, but I simply sat there paralyzed at my computer.

Can I please never go outside again?

Can’t

My school district had a series of bomb threats back in the early 2000s. I was out sick when the one at my elementary school took place, and it turned out to be from a girl who thought she could get a few days off – third graders can be kind of stupid.

They were all essentially pranks, but they stemmed from a real fear – in that post-Columbine world, were we wrong to panic at the idea that one of these kids might be serious?

This was the same year as the attacks on September 11. I didn’t know what the World Trade Centers were – I didn’t even know what Muslims were. That whole section of the world was a vague concept, introduced to me through one violent day.

Mine was a childhood defined by paranoia – I’ve been anxious since those early days, but I’m certain this experience went beyond me. The early 2000s were a culture of fear.

I remember my mother picking me up, telling me how they got let out of work because her company could be a potential target. The following weeks, I was glued to the television set – which was a normal experience, except Spongebob was replaced by those two burning towers collapsing into dust.

In those following months, I learned of anthrax, snipers, the proper way to seal doors in case of gas attacks. There were weapons of mass destruction, terrorist cells, liquid bombs. None of this had happened in my town – yet. But the media wanted to make it clear that it could.

The news of the outside world can really creep into your private life – as a child, I had no clear idea of how to delineate why and where these things happened. But that box in my own living room kept saying the same thing over and over: be afraid, be afraid, be afraid…

Home was mostly safe. The only thing that could reach me there was one of those big bombs, but it’s not like anywhere outside would be safe from that either. There were tornadoes, sure – but it was somehow easier to accept that. Being in a town of 5,000 people located in the Midwest, they were certainly a bigger threat in my day-to-day life than anything man-made. Luckily, I had the news to keep me focused on the real danger.

So, there might be places to visit, people to see, but I’d much rather stay inside. You can’t make me leave. Everything I need is on the television set.

Life’s safer with the news turned on.