I am on a direct flight to Denver, and a black man sitting next to me is sleeping with his mouth slightly open. His thick lips are parted, displaying uneven white teeth. He is still holding a mountain bike magazine he was reading with both hands. “One bike to rule the ride” says the cover.
I wonder what he is afraid of.
For a second, I think to ask him when he wakes up.
“Excuse me… what scares you?”. But then, I change my mind.
I started this book months ago. The first thing I came up with was the title. The second thing I came up with was a disclaimer.
“Please do not read this book if you are pregnant, or have been pregnant recently”. “Please do not read this book if you are impressionable, or sensitive, or highly empathetic”. “Some material described in this book may be graphic or triggering”.
Every book needs a title. Not every book needs a disclaimer. At first, I thought mine did.
A disclaimer, a warning, a stop sign. One of those inflatable man figures you see flying high at car dealerships, waving their ribbon arms. I learned that they were called sky dancers.
Don’t go any further. I want to share, but keep it a secret. I want to show you, but… don’t look.
I have this strange love-hate relationship with fear. [Doesn’t everyone?]
When I notice fear, I smile and cringe at the same time. Smile – because good things often lie behind fear. Cringe – because I know what I have to do next, and that part is not fun.
As soon as I notice running away from fear, I know I am going the wrong way. The only thing to do is to turn around and THEN start running.
What would I answer, if a stranger on a plane asked me that question out of the blue? What are you afraid of? What scares you? Would I tell the truth? Probably.
What scares me?
Injury. Getting old. My husband’s death. Not finding meaning, or worse – finding it, but not keeping it long enough to matter. I tend to misplace things. It would be a shame to misplace meaning. What scares me is exposing myself completely and totally.
And what scares me even more is exposing myself half way. Half way there is not “there” at all. Half vulnerable does not count. Being only half myself is unrecognizable. Half true, half honest. Half assed authenticity rings fake, cowardly.
I can do better.
You get the whole thing.
What I was going to say, by putting up a disclaimer, was… careful. Stop. Re-consider. Are you sure? Let me warn you, protect you. Go back to the light hearted essays about planning a wedding.
The man next to me wakes up briefly, just to pull a thin zip-up sweater from his backpack. He wiggles into it awkwardly, shifting in his seat, and trying not to touch me, as the social mores dictate, no matter how impossible the task is in the economy class. He falls back asleep, and I notice that the little hairs on his chin are speckled with gray, even though he cannot be older than thirty.
I decide his name is Brian. He is recently married, and is still not used to wearing his wedding ring, so he forgets it again on his dresser this morning. His wife gets upset when he does not wear his wedding ring.
No. This is Shawn. He is an orphan. He studied informatics in college, and now works for a small start up company downtown Denver. They develop custom project management solutions for large accounting firms.
The thing is… I don’t know what his name is. I don’t know what scares him. I can ask him, and he may or may not choose to tell the truth.
I know what scares ME. So, I’ll stay with that.
The book is done.
So many hugs, I can’t even tell you… SOLO