It was after midnight when L. decided to take a shortcut through a construction site. She drove along the unsigned streets pass half-done houses and within a few turns was lost. We reached the end of the development–a road into a sandy, empty lot–and stopped.
“I thought this went all the way through,” she said.
At eight in the morning I had to defend my Masters thesis. I could quite believe my plane hadn’t crashed on the way in, killing me after I’d written the damn paper but before I faced the committee. “Do you,” I asked, “know the way back?”
Woods edged up to the construction. Lights were in the distance. “Hmm.” L. looked around. “Hey,we could ask him for directions.”
“What?” I looked out the car window. Through a few skeletal houses I saw a man walking in our direction. He was limping. Or perhaps the sandy, uneven ground made him walk that way. “I’m not asking him for directions.” He was moving slowly.
“Oh, just ask him.”
He was getting closer.
“L.! Go. Just go.”
“But he might be able to tell us the way out.”
“It’s one o’clock in the morning in a construction site. I’m not getting out of the car.”
L. rolls her eyes. “Don’t be like that.”
Forget all those Florida serial killers. I was going to be murdered the night before my thesis defense in Ohio. Of course. “Are you crazy?” I looked again, and he was still approaching. He was nothing but a shadow between the house-frames. “Then you get out.”
“I’m not getting out. I’m driving. And you’re being stubborn,” L. said.
“I’m not STUBBORN! I’m staying alive. Now drive. Come on. Go. Go. GO!”
She sighed and put the car back in gear. The man was a few yards away, but I didn’t want to look at him directly. I looked out of the corner of my eye. We left him in the dark.
In the morning, I borrowed L’s car. On my way to campus I tried to ignore the everything I’d ever heard about how deadly driving actually is.
My uncle, grandmother’s favorite child, my mom’s favorite sibling, died in a car crash on his way to a summer job before his senior college year. My mom died of an aneurysm after college graduation and just before getting a real career job she’d long wanted.
This Friday I have an appointment with a woman who might sell my work in her shop. An agent has a few pages of mine. And irrational fears are not easily shaken. It can all end at any moment but I’ve got to keep working…
Ever dealt with fear of failure? Fear of success? Irrational fears connected to your writing or art?
Have you seen that movie Stranger Than Fiction? Karen, the writer, insists that everyone thinks of jumping off buildings. Penny, her assistant, says she never thinks of jumping off buildings. Eleven of my students sided with Penny. They never thought about jumping off buildings. One student said that yeah, maybe once in a while she thought about it. Just, you know, when she was standing on a high ledge. Just for a second. And I wondered if the other students were lying or maybe they really never think of things like that.
I suspect I’m rambling. Talk amongst yourselves.