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There is comfort in the seasons because they do not apologize. Fall comes, things die, winter and barren, then spring will bound forth and fill the world with noise and color. Summer brims with bounty then fades towards death, again. Never do the earth or sky or rainfall demean their actions, lessen themselves by halfskipping around things, making excuses. The rabbit fell to the fox because that’s the way things are. The tree lost its leaves and stood stark and denuded against a flat grey sky, and lost no dignity by apologizing for its loss. Can I open myself enough that I may take into me some of that same strength? I am selfish and I shirk my duties, color my words to soften blows or to catscratch deeper. I am not nor will I ever be perfect. I have a halfway chance at good enough, but we both know that that won’t find me salvation.

Or maybe just there isn’t salvation to be found: this is it. Colored leaves, dying wind, the food we eat and the air we breathe, there isn’t anything that isn’t this here right now. It was the realization of the overarching reality of such a prosaic thing as oatmeal that saved me that long winter. If I close my eyes and taste, if I close my eyes and feel the shag carpet beneath me and the wool sweater around me, close my eyes and gulp the air, close my eyes and be here now, here, now, close my eyes. Drop my expectation and my apology, let them shatter into dull pieces on the cement sidewalk three floors down. It doesn’t matter what I meant; it matters what I’ve done. Or: my actions are merely the manifestation of my intentions, and if they don’t seem in line to me, then perhaps I haven’t paid enough attention to what I really mean. I broke your heart because I couldn’t see a way out that didn’t leave me alone, and I was and god knows still am filled with the desperate, shameful fear of alone. I broke your heart to avoid losing my own; I am selfish and I shirk my fears in the hopes that they will dissolve into mist of their own accord.


Here in the richest country on earth, we drown in our fear. The closer and deeper I look, the more I find fear lurking behind my every action. Ani Difranco says it: I wonder if everything I do, I do instead of something I want to do more. I am afraid of what people will think, afraid of what other people will do, afraid of falling, afraid of failing, afraid of being beaten and robbed and raped on the street after dark. Afraid of a silence that stretches too long, afraid of strange dogs, of hunger, of nightfall, of growing old without ever living my dreams. Afraid of mediocrity, of judgment, of car crashes and broken bones. It isn’t that I live in fear, it’s that I live through it, unconsciously perhaps, but using it as a fulcrum upon which a startling number of my decisions turn. And, strangely but perhaps not surprisingly, again, I find that when I open myself to joy, to love, when I expose myself to judgment by speaking my mind, when I sleep outside alone under the stars, then the fear abates. In the fullness of moving life fear doesn’t have the maneuvering room to cage me: it is when I stop and think, reflect and premeditate, that I am overcome.

I sit across the table from him, late night in a loud bar. We’ve been dancing circles around each other for weeks now, brushings of hands across shoulders, eye contact held just a moment too long. Finally I’ve mustered the guts – balls, really, a thing like taking the first step is much more grisly than mere guts – to ask him out to the bar, under a pretense of mere friendship. We’ve spent three hours and four beers here, talking about everything – politics, religion, the probably connection between the industrial revolution on Attention Deficit Disorder – everything except the bright humming that sparks between us. It is clearly fear that keeps me from leaning forward to kiss him, but fear of what? I have little doubt that the feels about me the same way that I feel about him, but we hesitate, sidestep away from the question. Maybe just a fear of having to clarify my intentions, having to account for my feelings by taking action upon them.

As we leave, I count down in my head – four, three, two, one – and force myself to take his hand. He looks at me, startled, then smiles. I tell him that I don’t know how to feel or what I feel or what to do, but that I want to be holding his hand. He nods; we’ll go slow, it’s okay. The fear stays a while, haggling with truth, calling on insecurity for some shady backup, but eventually steps back into the darkness and disappears. Once we kiss, once the world begins to move on its own, the fear is driven out, dismissed into nothingness, obsolete.

He could have laughed and pulled his hand away, but then the fear would be similarly replaced by fact and would still lose the power it holds over me. Pain may take its place, but I think that pain might be better. At least it has the ring of truth to it. The image for me here is this: fear clouds and cripples; pain is clear. It may maim you – hell, it may rip your intestines straight out – but at least you can see through it.

But: in that dark winter, what was it that pinned me down, nailed me to my bed like a coffin, straight black against the earth? Fear or pain? Merely doubt? I to this day truly believe that I might not have survived without the tiny joys I scraped out of the concrete: the oatmeal, of course, but also clean towels, the scent of chamomile, his kiss when it came sweetly without anger or guilt tagging along for the ride.

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