My friend says I’m fearless. I’m so flattered I quickly panic that I'm vain. Then I want to know what she really means in the way we question all complements to grasp how big they are. What makes me so much braver than the next legend? Details please.
I know her fears: spiders and death (in that order). There are probably more but I won’t ask because she will tell me and I’m not interested.
People only care about your anxieties if a) they are trying to calculate if you’ve almost finished discussing them or b) they are in love with you.
People delude themselves on this. But it’s a fact. People care about your anxieties as much as they care about what you dreamt last night - not at all. They listen because they're trapped in the window seat on the bus, or because you're related and they have no friends either. They hope you’ll get over yourself soon and will be interesting again - even if you were never interesting in the first place. Granted if someone’s in love with you and finds everything you say fascinating, you should seize your chance to explain how an earwig might render you deaf while you sleep, but generally speaking, don't bother.
I am afraid, I’m afraid I’ll never feel the way I feel when I’m with you… oh no, that’s not me, that’s Baby in Dirty Dancing.
Maybe my friend is right. Maybe I am fearless. Maybe this is why I have so much time to sweat the small stuff - just working out why I don't get wound up has kept me awake all week.
The last time I was gripped by fear I simply declined the return lift and got the bus - am I a modern day warrior? Before that it was when I had my palm read round a mate’s house by a strange girl with dubious dress sense. The guru traced the lines on my massive palms with her freakishly small fingers, cushioned me with complements and promptly predicted that my life as I knew it was about to end. She stared at me with big watery eyes. She apologised. She didn’t want to carry on with her reading. My stomach lurched.
Back in Bognor* I contemplated my life as I knew it. I was staying in a chambre de bonne - a small attic room without bourgeois luxuries like kitchen or shower. The toilet was in the corridor, the window was broken and as it was winter it would snow on your head while you cleaned your teeth etc. I was working split shifts in a burger bar that served Heinz ie. a better burger bar than the one I’d worked in before Christmas. I slept on a cot. My three foot by four foot space was furnished with a clutch of books, a cheap radio and a pink throw. I had no one and nothing to lose. Surely any change would be a step up? The thing is I was totally happy. I wanted everything to stay exactly so. And now my empire was under siege. I had been taken hostage by my own imagination.
Fears are nonsense thoughts that people demand undue sympathy for. Fears cannot be realised – yes, bad stuff happens– but that is fundamentally different, an actuality that you either cope with or fear you can’t cope with (i.e. cope with badly).
Who would have thought being asked to relocate a spider could provoke such profound ponderings? Or that insomnia could make me this jumpy?
*I was actually living in Paris but Rob says that this is the kind of dirty secret I should hide from my massive readership of two. I point out that we both already know I was living in Paris. He raises his eyebrows at the same time. This means he is right. I edit accordingly.