Tag Archives: fear

Image Source: The Bowdoin Orient

The fog of time and the fact of events unfolding before an undeveloped mind have obscured most of the picture. But the pertinent details remain.

I was old enough to know better, but young enough to not know better. At age four or five, I got lost in Grand City Department Store, Brunswick, Maine. I was found in front of the store with a Wonder Woman coloring book in my hand. Red was my favorite color and crayon, and I loved coloring in Wonder Woman’s red earring. Ultimately on the same day I turned out to be a runaway and a thief.

This is my earliest memory. (My next earliest memory is of making Jiffy Pop before Super Bowl XIV – Steelers/Rams – and being in awe of quarterback Terry Bradshaw and terrified of linebacker Jack Ham and his toothless scowl. But that’s another story.) I remember feeling scared not knowing where my mom and dad were. I remember the unmistakable smell of a five-and-dime, that mysterious blend of potpourri, balsam spray, cigarette smoke and diner grease. I remember seeing 70s décor tiles on the back wall and the linoleum under my feet as I ran and ran, hopefully toward my parents.

And I remember trying to get outside, and I remember a woman walking up to me and saying, “That’s a heavy door. That’s a heavy door.” And she OPENED the door, letting me out onto the sidewalk with my accidentally-stolen treasure.

It must have been winter, because I remember my dad hugging me tight to his quilted navy blue nylon coat. I don’t remember if this was inside or out. I don’t remember being yelled at. I guess they were just so thankful to have me back safely. I think I had my coloring book with me in the backseat, but I don’t remember coloring.

And I remember feeling that something had happened, something bad, because I had upset my parents somehow. And I had done something that had made me scared. The safety of my insular world was shaken a bit that day. I’m now almost 40 and looking at this event across the lens of 35 years, but I still remember the dark shades of feeling, and this unease has informed my life more than I’ve realized.



Image Source: Larry Clark

I don’t remember anything whatever from leaving the house until it happened. That is all gone. I remember a squeal, and spinning. I was smoking a cigarette, and I remember it flying off into the back seat. I remember fearing that something would catch fire. This thought occurred while I was staring at the dome light and feeling the car hurtling into a violent spin.

And then…nothing.

Silence. An odd, peaceful silence, as though a pillow was wrapped around my head. Then sounds, muted and gauzy, started to come into focus. Gravel. A tire spinning. The sound of water running.

I opened my eyes, and the brightness of the sky made me sick to my stomach. I saw James, fuzzy and dark, standing outside the car. Then I noticed light dancing across a hole and a thousand cracks in the windshield.

The light was beautiful, shimmering like a diamond. I smelled beer and cigarettes, and saw it was coming from James outside the car. I smelled gasoline and tasted something metallic, like a penny.

I noticed the blood on my dress, and I wondered where it came from. Then I saw blood on the cracks in the glass, and saw that some of my hair was stuck in a crack. I suppose you could say that this snapped me out of my spell.

I put a hand to my forehead, and it was covered in blood. Why, I never screamed louder in my life when I realized that I was bleeding so! I saw myself in the rear view mirror, and all the blood terrified me. But it also partly fascinated me. I kept staring at my own reflection, screaming. This must have gone on for several moments, but it seemed forever. Then the sound of a siren way off in the distance started getting louder and louder…

They say the road was slick, and James was driving too fast. Funny how fast it all occurs. In a matter of seconds, your life changes forever with one slight miscalculation.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to check my guest-post yesterday. And thanks to the Bluebird for hosting me!



Photo Source: MLive

I got hit in the nuts with soccer balls a lot as a kid. I don’t know if that’s a skill, exactly, but if it is I had some serious game. My soccer career only lasted for one season of Brunswick, Maine rec-league, but it was enough to do some physical and psychological damage. I suffered the pain of not winning a single game, not scoring a single goal or steal and not escaping without a few good whacks to the manhood.

Also, wearing shin guards seems to have killed off all my follicles. My legs below my knees would not be miscast in a Nair commercial. I remember pulling sweat-soaked foam and plastic guards out of my sweat-soaked socks, and now I’ve got bald legs. It may be a spurious connection, but I can’t find a better one.

I played one year of tee-ball, on a team that also went completely defeated. I played right field very badly, and I had a penchant for swinging and missing spectacularly. Swinging and missing a ball on a tee. Yet another nonexistent skill that I was extremely skilled at.

Throughout my “career” in Brunswick, I was able to just play with my friends, and nobody cared. When I moved to Florida, at age nine, the teasing began. My chums said I ran like I had a brick shoved up my ass sideways, and much more, so by the time we moved back to Maine, at age fourteen, I was a wee bit sensitive and traumatized.

Attending the same high school as Stephen King, and running laps in the same gym that inspired Carrie, didn’t exactly help matters.

NOTHing in my life ever filled me with terror more than gym class my freshman and sophomore years at Lisbon High School. The fear of running, making an idiot of myself, being exposed, was all-consuming, like taking a walk to the chair. One was allowed to skip five gym classes per semester with impunity, and after that, it was laps in the gym after school. I may have cashed in my five skips my first week.

I preferred doing laps and walking the four miles home. It was easier, less terrifying and even comforting, running my penance in the company of other degenerates. And walking home, I often took the train tracks through the woods and along the river, just like that King guy, and I saw first-hand how Lisbon became Castle Rock and the Androscoggin River became the Royal.

I love watching sports, but I learned early on that I was not going to be the Maine boy that beat the odds to start for the Sox in Fenway. Not a chance. Take enough soccer balls in the junk and you just know.



Image Source: Sonali Mangal

The bottle hit the floor with a thud, rather than a smash. Her hand had fallen off the side of the bed after she nodded off, long past giving up the charade of formalities and a glass, so the bottle had a short fall. But now a fine Argentine Malbec was spilling all over the floor. She got up, cleaned the mess, got back into bed and slugged back the rest, as the two hemispheres of her brain came together in hazy concentric circles. Diminishing circles, diminishing returns. It was over. All over. The last time…

A few hours later she dragged into work, dragging as always, made the call, got the reservation confirmed and left the office early. She got a ride and got dropped off. Paperwork, paperwork, more paperwork, interviews, questions, more interviews, more questions. Everything taken away, all possessions locked in storage. Hospital gown, hospital pants, hospital socks. Hospital bed with rubber mattress and ill-fitting sheets, a swing-out tray with a room temperature turkey sandwich and chips, a painting that was clearly done by a grade-school child and Jesus paraphernalia all around the room. No TV, no books. No clocks, no phone. Nothing but the sound of the ice machine across the hall and the beep of machines. Nothing but…


Nothing but fear and solitude. She tried to sleep, in spite of the late August afternoon sun streaming in. Then the first nurse arrived to check her vitals. And then she was strongly encouraged to go to her first optional meeting.

The room was full of kids. Not her. Kids kicking crystal meth and mainlining coke. Not her. She wasn’t that bad.

There was a woman, probably 40, who looked at least 60, with two shiners. Not her. She wasn’t that bad.

She teetered between indignant detachment and empathy.

I’m not THAT bad!

But I’m bad enough to be in…

The meeting began, two speakers, similar stories, common narratives weaving through both and connecting, touching where she was at and had been. More stories around the room, more connection, more empathy. And more indignant rage and snark since I’M NOT THAT BAD

There was an old commercial:

“Drinking made me lonely. Lonely, lonely, lonely!”

She used to laugh unmercifully at the overwrought off-off Broadway performance, but the sentiment was so true now that it was her life story, except I’m NOT that bad and the sentiment was there in all the stories being told…the same fuckin’ story over and over and OVER again and I’M NOT that bad she was able to plug her own life into the shared narratives…

not THAT bad…..

but bad enough…

Back to the rubber mattress which I’m not bad enough off to be sleeping in…(but I am), and back to the fear…loneliness…the woman with the shiners strolled in and took the next bed…she pretended to be asleep, not wanting to talk, not wanting to connect, to come to terms…nothing but silence, the silence of holding it all in and being terrified

and alone

and not that bad….right?