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The Christmas Story

May 18, 2018

The Art of Fear

"Are you going out tonight?" my mother asks while chopping a green onion. She's wearing a baggy, old t-shirt that's at least twenty-years-old and light pink underwear. I guess I learned my no-pants rule from her.


"No, I was going to chill with you guys, watch a movie or something," popping my head up from the computer. I'm casually researching laser hair removal. I'm tired of looking like a bear from the neck down, yet, I'm too cheap to fully make the commitment to being hairless. Plus, I'm concerned about future winters without body hair. How do moles live?


"You haven't seen your friends in a while. What's Moe or Tijana doing tonight?"


"I don't know," squinting at a squeaky clean post-lasered vagina on the screen, "I think Moe is out and Tijana is with her boyfriend."


"Natasha..." the sound of chopping pauses momentarily, "do you have any friends?"


"What? Yeah, of course," averting my eyes to my mother, "what are you talking about, I have friends."


"Don't get all defensive now, your father and I are just wondering," spoken with a tone that could warm an ice cube, "You know...because since we've moved here you've seen to be not going out as much with your friends."


I lean back in my chair,  stretching my arms back just a little too much, "I mean, listen, I used to have a lot of friends, okay fine, I admit, and I was going out Monday to Monday basically, but I just couldn't do it anymore. Going out till seven in the morning, I'm done for the rest of the day, you know, they're not employed, they have time - and I was getting distracted." Half-truth.


"I have a huge fear of death," wiping my sweaty palms against my thighs. I'm not good at telling people how I really feel. Unless it's in the form of a sext.


She stares at me, blinking almost without any emotion other than the mental sigh she probably had by the fact that I'm probably the ten-thousandth person to walk into her office and tell her this. I wanted to be the first. "Tell me what makes you scared about it."


"Well, I...uh" grabbing the glass of water sitting on the coffee table next to me, letting the water engulf my throat, "let's see, uh...I'm scared of not seeing my family ever again." I pause, waiting for her to advise me. This bitch is dead silent. "Uh...I'm terrified of getting old, but not the aging part, that doesn't scare me. I'm scared not having my parents around, ya know? And I uh, I feel guilty if I don't spend time with them."


"Why do you feel guilty?"


"Because, uh, I don't know. I think maybe watched too much Oprah as a kid or listened to my grandmother cry on the phone because she's lonely for a little too long. I just don't want my parents to feel that ya know? I don't want them to feel I wasn't there. So, uh, now I guess I'm overcompensating or something cause I'm always there."


"Do you enjoy being there?"


"Yeah, I love hanging out with my parents, they're fucking hilarious. And when I'm not there, I really feel guilty not spending time with them." I grab a kleenex and start rolling it in between my fingers, letting the sweat soak into each fiber.


"Did you express this to them?"


"No. Because they're not like forcing me to hang out with them. Like, you know, they probably want me to not spend so much time with them, you know. And like who wants to hear that their kid feels guilty and scared of their death? Like it's kinda fucked up, no?"

"It just sounds like you have a lot of love for them and you're experiencing what some would call separation anxiety."


"But I'm twenty-seven. Like, I shouldn't be fearing death." I start ripping up the moist kleenex into tiny pieces, letting them fall onto my lap. "I fear death. I fear my death and I fear their death. You know, I'll see a show on tv, someone, whatever, has cancer or like I'll watch a scene in Rambo where he kills 100 people in ten seconds and all I can think about are those people not having a conscious. Like, everything going black. Just no thought, not one. Nothing. And, I can't do anything about it, it's just going to happen."


"No one knows what happens when we die, this is just a part of the natural cycle. And with your parents, they're probably not going to die soon. They're healthy, they're young."


"You don't know that," whispering. "Not even you can know that. People can get killed crossing the street or taking a shit if they squeeze too hard."


She pauses for a moment, her left eye twitches slightly, "you're right."


"And this feeling," grabbing onto my knees, "it's creeping into my relationship with my boyfriend. My brother told me that we," pausing for a moment, "my boyfriend and I, we remind him of my aunt and uncle, who were a pair. Okay sure, they had their bullshit like every couple does but they had that connection, you know? That connection that you rarely see between people, they had it."


"Isn't it a positive thing to have that type of connection with your boyfriend?"


"Yeah, but my uncle died two years ago. I was in Italy," my voice trails off, "that was a fucked up day. I had an exam for school the next day and I was trying to prove in court that this 8-year-old girl wasn't raped and murdered by her neighbor, but he clearly did it, like he fucking did it. And I was stressed the whole week preparing for that case and I woke up that morning with tonsilitis, my throat was completely closed, I couldn't talk. I had to like spit in this cup because I wasn't able to swallow, it was fucking brutal. And I went to pee and to google a doctor in fucking Italian, you know how hard that is to do?"


She nods her head, "I can imagine."


"And while I was peeing, you know, I first went on Facebook because I was fucking addicted and saw this photo of him. You know the type of photos, there's just something off about it, they always have the tingle of death. They're smiling, they just look too happy," biting my thumbnail intensely, "it's usually just a portrait shot... the's eerie as fuck."


I grab the pieces of ripped kleenex from my lap, placing them into my clammy palm. "And that's how I found out he died...which is kinda fucked up, I mean, he's my family and I find out on Facebook. Anyways, and I couldn't scream because my throat was in so much pain. So I was like doing those pregnancy breaths, you know, breathing in deeply and slowly and I managed to get dressed without crying. I left the house, I don't know why I left, I think I needed air, I just needed to breathe. Just like, I was surrounded by death all day, every day at school and then my uncle dies and... you know?"


I shake my head slowly, "So, I made it down the street calmly and I had that fucking spit cup in my hand still. And I was standing on the corner, watching this family pick out ice cream. They were just so happy and their kid was straight up fat, so obviously he was fucking delighted to be fed and they were laughing about whatever it was, I don't know fucking Italian and I watched them for a couple of minutes and just dropped on the ground and started crying."


"What made you upset while watching them?"


"I don't know. Maybe the fact that that moment would never exist again for them or that the person you choose to spend your life with, someone that you think you'll die with will just become non-existent, just gone. Yet you're still conscious, knowing that it'll happen to you."

"Do you think this situation will happen to you?"


"What do you mean?"


"You feel that because you have a connection with your boyfriend, that the same thing that happened to your aunt will happen to you?"


"Yes. I think I'm scared that if something is too good, it'll get taken away from me. I think that's what also scares me about my parents is, like, if my relationship is too good with them that it'll get taken away from me and that's why I try to spend as much time with them as possible. Just in case it gets taken from me. And now I'm scared that if I go to be with him something will happen to my parents and vice versa because I can't be everywhere. I can't."

"You and your aunt are different people though. You have different lives. Your story is not the same. You could live a long and happy life with your partner."


"Can I ask you something? Are you scared of dying?"


"Well, I'd say this isn't about me, this is about you."


"I need you to tell me if you've felt this before."


"I think everyone fears death."


"But do you fear it?" I look up at her, our eyes consumed by one another, "come on, you're a psychologist. Do you think about it in the same way I do? Is this normal?"


"I'm sorry Natasha, our time is up for today's session."

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