fluff piece #16: the unknown before me…

“I’ve decided to stop being afraid.” I said it out loud. I said it to no one. Looking around my meticulously kept house, I noticed I had missed one of my bookshelves when I had dusted this morning. I went and grabbed the feather duster and the cloth I used for dusting books from their spot in the cleaning cupboard and walked over to the shelf. One by one I removed each book and dusted them carefully.

Many years ago, while watching the news, I had a panic attack. It was the first time I had ever experienced anything like it. My breathing became erratic, my heart raced, I could feel my stomach begin to turn and I wondered if I was going to die. After a while, I calmed down a bit, but I realized that I could not continue living the way I had been. The news report had been a quick and dirty dish about the statistics of freak accidents happening outside the home. It had been followed up with a report on the rise of gang activity in the city in which I worked. Then, there had been a piece about germs on the public transit buses I depended on to get me from place to place. That had done it. Something in me snapped and I could not force myself to step over the threshold of my home and out into the unknown before me.

Looking out the window, I realized it was time for my gardener to come. About six years ago, a boy named Chris had shown up at my door with a flyer advertising his services. He was looking for simple lawn mowing jobs. I hired him and asked if he would take care of the rest of my yard work as well. We decided on a wage and he promised to come every week on Saturday morning and take care of things for me.  A month ago he had come over with his little brother Joey. He wanted to introduce us because Joey would be taking over his business when he went off to college. I promised Chris that if he gave me his address that I would send him his favorite chocolate chip cookies every now and then. It was silly, but this eighteen year old boy was one of the only people I interacted with on a regular basis and I was going to miss him. Yesterday was supposed to be his brother’s first day. He hadn’t shown up. I would have to call him later and remind him to come take care of things for me.

The dusting done, I sat down at my computer. Before I had become the sad hermit I was currently, I had worked downtown as an editor at a small, regional magazine about cooking. When I called my boss to resign and told him about my current problem, he suggested I try working from home. If it hadn’t been for the internet, I am not sure where I would have ended up. Probably in a small dingy apartment living on unemployment or disability. I checked my e-mail and sent a quick note off to my boss letting him know I would be sending him a stack of edits the next day via courier. Normally I just e-mailed them, but this particular piece was large and to be run as a series in several issues. It would be easier just to send it to him this way.

Moving to the living room to turn on the news, I remembered my adamant statement about fear earlier and laughed to myself. It had been a silly thing to say. Wanting to leave my fear and my house behind and actually being able to accomplish the feat, were two very different things. I settled into my favorite chair and covered my legs with my favorite afghan. Watching the anchor on the screen begin his daily routine, I sighed. This was how I convinced myself I was not crazy. There was a lot of bad in the world. Clearly, I had chosen the safest and most sensical life I could.

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