The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.
When Franklin D Roosevelt gave his First Inaugural Address in 1932, he was attempting to calm the American populace by saying that and with good reason. By 1933, the Great Depression was in full swing and things had never been worse.
But I have to disagree with Mr Roosevelt – something I’m not proud of doing because I think he was one of our greatest leaders. Fearing fear is great if you’re spouting rhetoric, but there are plenty of real things out there to be afraid of. Here are some true stories from my life of things that I am afraid of.
February 1987, Wilton, NY
I was walking through the woods surrounding my childhood home, something I did often during the 17 years I lived there. There was a light coating of snow, perhaps six inches, and the world was quiet. There were no sounds. Snow will do that to the forest: It will muffle and hide noise better than a professional sound booth. This was a fresh snow, it had stopped falling about an hour before I left the house. I was walking along, careful to step high and slowly so that I wouldn’t trip over a hidden branch or twist my ankle in a hole. At one point, my right foot came down and the snow exploded under my foot. White crystals blew everywhere accompanied by a series of cracking sounds in quick succession. CRACKCRACKCRACKCRACKCRACK! A dark brown object roughly the size of a football had burst out of the snow, moving faster than I could have ever thought. It was a wood grouse. A bird. The cracking sound was the flapping of it’s wings as it escaped my foot which had come crashing down almost on top of it. It is a sound that haunts me still – a sound that has given me a fear of birds.
June 1990, Orlando, FL
I stood on the highest diving platform clad in Navy issue t-shirt and swim trunks. My arms were crossed over my chest, hands on opposite shoulders. Looking down, I watched the three frogmen staring up at me as they tread water. The water looked miles away and the diving platform was tilting back and forth, back and forth. The Company Commander was shouting at me, “Jump! What are you waiting for Seaman Storch? Why are you swaying like that? Jump, Godammit!” Others in my company had already taken this jump and the rest were waiting behind me. No one else had balked. It was so far. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t float. I’d sink like a stone. “Are you afraid of water, Seaman Storch? What are you doing in my Navy if you’re afraid of water?” I was going to drown. I was going to die and this guy didn’t care. “The rest of your company wants to go for a nice swim on this hot day, Storch.” They didn’t this was a drill to practice jumping off a sinking ship. “PT for the company if Storch doesn’t jump!” he shouted to everyone who could hear. Then they all started shouting at me. “Jump! Jump! C’mon, asshole! Jump! Don’t be dick, candyass! Jump!” I knew what this would me for me later that night if I didn’t jump. Barracks justice. That wasn’t going to happen. Not to me. “You’re a miserable bastard, Chief,” I mumbled as I jumped.
May 2000, Somerville, MA
The three story house on Carlton Street was owned by a couple of guys who didn’t live anywhere near it. They rented each floor out as a separate apartment. Jessica and I lived on the third floor. We didn’t have much in that place – I was working as a proofreader for Stop & Stop (proofing the weekly sales fliers was a job a monkey could do) and she was a classical singer who had spots in a couple of choirs. We had set up our bedroom in the front room, the kitchen was in the back and between the two was a living area. We had a futon mattress on the floor aligned in such a way that if you were laying on it, you could look down the length of the apartment all the way to the back wall of the kitchen some 40-50 feet away. I awoke one morning, facing the length of the apartment, opened my eyes and witnessed the most horrifying vision from hell charging at me from the kitchen. It was kind of man-shaped, but it ran on all fours, joints bent at impossible angles. It was all spikes and fangs and looked the color of dead flesh. I was caught. I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t close my eyes. I couldn’t move. The greatest fear I had ever felt had me in it’s grasp and I was paralyzed. The beast charged me and right as it hit, I jumped awake. I never before had a nightmare like that and have never since, and hope I never do again. To this day, I can still see it clearly and am still not sure if I was awake or not.
August 2006, Hooksett, NH
The house Tracey, Tristan and I lived in was small. Living room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. No basement, no attic. It was a modular home. I thought it’d be a good idea to place the couch in the middle of the living room to separate the TV area from the computer desks. Tristan was 2 and had just learned to walk, but he took to it as if he was born to run – he ran everywhere (and still does). Tracey was out one day, I was on the couch reading and Tristan was running around the couch as fast as he could. I let him, he was due for a nap soon and I wanted him tired so he could go to sleep faster. Because the house was small, there was only about a foot of space between the couch and the windows. Tristan was small enough to navigate that gap with ease. I watched him do it 20 times. Then his feet slipped. His head crashed into the window sill. He screamed. I rushed over to comfort him, scooping him into my arms, one hand holding his head to my shoulder. When his cries didn’t subside, I knew I needed to look for an injury. When I lifted him from my shoulder, my shirt was covered in blood as was his entire head it seemed. Blood everywhere. Too much blood. I panicked. I couldn’t find where the blood was coming from. There was too much, oh god, there was so much blood. Visions of cracked skulls and toddler sized coffins danced in front of my eyes. So much blood. It wasn’t stopping. 911. I need to call 911. The paramedics arrived. The police arrived. The paramedics took my boy. They police took me to another room. Asked questions. I was too scared to care that they were trying to find out if I hurt him. When that finally sank in and I was about to scream at them for what they were suggesting, the paramedics said that Tristan was fine. He had cut his ear. That’s all. Head injuries always bleed a lot they said. He was fine. He has a half inch scar on the back of his right ear lobe to forever remind me of that day.
December 2011, Bedford, NH
I sat in front of my computer rereading the words I had carefully crafted while the cursor hovered over the “Publish” button. This was it. If I clicked that button, there would be no turning back. The final hurdle to solidify me to the course of action I had chosen. How bad did I want this? Was I finally ready to do what I loved rather than hide from it? Was it time to believe others when for so long the only voice I listened to was my own? Was I really as good at this as people told me I was? Did I want to find out the hard way? IS there any other way? Hand shaking, I closed my eyes and clicked. It is done. Give ‘em hell, Storch.
This was written for the Studio30 Plus prompt, “What are you afraid of?”