Transition (?): My 1 woman show
“You are frightened of everything. You call it caution. You call it common sense. You call it practicality. You call it playing the odds, but that’s only because you’re afraid to call it by its real name, and its real name is fear.” – Mick Farren (Darklost)
Gebir 1: Waving Flag
I have Social-Anxiety Disorder, so upon first meeting strangers, I talk about myself and my shyness (timidity/coyness) in exaggerated terms. I call myself a “freak”, “a silly little girl”, a “doofis” (Like “dufus”, only spelled better. Pastor Joe didn’t preach well this morning. What a doofis). It’s a sleek strategy; a conscious decision to throw the would-have-been adversary off. A white flag that signals not to be shot at, or fired upon, or be treated in anyway like the enemy.
But waving the flag isn’t all that it does. When the would-have-been assassin comes closer, it reveals a disarming quality in the negotiator (me) that would make him/her wanna abandon all animosity. It shows how perceptive I am of my short-comings so they don’t need to point them out. It shows a vulnerability you are encouraged to hide from people for as long as you can (which, otherwise, they would have to work hard to find, after time has passed and when it’s too late to do anything about it). It also shows that they got nothing to fear from me. That I was safe. Smart, funny, safe. The stuff for comedy central!
What happens then is as unbelievably predictable as anything can be. My new found friends would become no longer guarded and furrowed-brow. They are pleased with themselves and are, therefore, feeling charitable. They will soon start protesting, on my behalf, for me!. “You ARE fine” they will say, making little waving gestures to shoo my negativity away. “You just gotta think positive”, they will advise carelessly. “You got so much to give/you deserve better/tell yourself u are worth it”, they confidently declare. Sometimes .. not often times but sometimes.. they try to be more practical than supportive. “If you know it, why can’t you stop [doing] it?”, they ask. Mistakenly assuming that self consciousness, like humility, was a virtue u would lose once u know you got it. Self-consciousness, (a preoccupation with oneself, the worry that one’s activity, appearance or discussion will meet with social disapproval), however deceitfully alike it is to humility, is neither a virtue nor something one would care not to lose. It is fear. Plain.old.fear. And u can’t step out of your fear by telling yourself that there was really nothing behind u and ghosts were old women’s tales. Because “fear” is a training. A state of mind. A way of being. A [poisoned] well from which you drink all waters. It’s the fact of your life that only you are in possession of.
Gebir 1:1 – Losing the fear
I have been told to “lose the fear” in various ways. I have been patronized, “we all feel it but..”. Threatened, “seeing yourself beating up is such a turn off”. And preached unto: “Throw away thy shackles”, it’s been said to me. “Lay down your burden”. “Know the truth and the truth shalt set you free”. And been exasperated over and abandoned for it, as recently as two weeks ago, when I couldn’t simply “snap my fingers” and let it disappear. I, ofcourse, always protest. I am an already formed person, I say. It has nothing to do with you, trusting or not taking your words; I beg. It’s me., I declare It’s the child I was that just got older, not wiser.
In the end, they have all felt disgusted by my inability to get past my fear and walked away to save their sanity. Not knowing in doing so, in showing me that I was replaceable, they were actually catering to and feeding… feeding the demon of my insecurity.
Gebir 2: The demon
It’s a voice at the back of your voice, a voice over – so to say; that also makes-over your thoughts for you. It’s the correcting fluid. The eyes that observes you while you are observing others. The winged-creature on your shoulder. It’s the person that says, “is that really why you are buying it for?!” when you are protesting loudly to your friend that you are buying it not to show off your legs but because you need it for work. It’s the witness to the prosecutor, the accuser. The sleek party-pooper who comes around with snide in his look and sulphur on his breath to piss on the festive mood. He is the spirit that roams through the earth and retorts back “Doth Job fear God for naught?”. It’s the ultimate cynic.
Gebir 3: The accident
I’ve always been curious about car accidents ever since I heard that joke, the one about somebody’s mother or grandma slipping off a roof while in hot pursuit of her cat. And somebody else saying “endet tiDeneGit?!”. I’ve thought that was the most legitimate question to ask of accidental deaths. What does the suicide bomber tell himself when seeing the terrified faces of the woman and the child – the innocents, before he gets the courage to start quoting the Takbir?! What would the protestor who poured gas on himself and set himself on fire feel when his toes start burning?! How did Tibebe felt when he knew his kidneys were shutting down, and he wasn’t gonne do a dramatic entrance back into life after throwing that fit and taking those pills?! “He didn’t think he was gonne die,” I remember the neighbors saying, shaking their heads in disappointment. He’s begged to be saved. Wept to rejoin the fold before the shepherd let his hand go. Did he feel cheated?! Did he protest against the death that stopped for him before he was ready to stop for it?! Did he say “Woyne! Teshewedku”?!.
And so.. when sitting infront of a car with a female driver (and her children screaming at the back), or riding down our six hundred something feet elevator at work twice a day, I wonder how I would feel if it started going 80 mile per hr, instead of 10, and death was imminent. What would I be thinking when I realize “the reaper” was paying me a courtesy call, that I was about to meet the creator. Before the car/the elevator/the airplane hit ground and pieces of me were scooped up. Would I feel terrified? Clear headed? Surprised?!
Gebir 3:1 – The actual car accident
And then came the actual car accident. Me and two new friends were crossing the street a few minutes before midnight on Thanksgiving night to get to Wal-Mart before it opened for Black Friday. I needed a laptop, they need a tv. Animated, we started crossing the road, totally oblivious to the rules of the road or that a car would be lurking in the darkness. Then there was a noise. A looking around. A surprise. Out of the blue, a car (all head-lights and nothing else) was coming at us, running us down. The second I saw the front of the car doing perhaps 60 at a neighborhood area of about 25 mph, and hit the guy walking next to the guy walking next to me, I recognized death. My whole life didn’t pass before me. I didn’t see what I could have done had I survived. Or what I would look like 12 years from now. I saw. I knew. And I thought “Ah! So this is what death is like”. (“This is how you leave home and never return”. “This is how you make it to the six o’clock news”. “This is your 15 minutes of fame. The stuff that keeps families animated and newspapers sold”. “This is sudden, exciting, accidental death.”)
Then I heard myself screaming a name deeply engraved in my psyche. The name of that of an old friend. A dear old friend. The name of a friend I have ranted and raved against before completely abandoning it, the way I felt he’s abandoned me. “Eyesus!”, I called. And, the scream having been broken by the side of a car that hit the side of my leg, I fall. But only the dead drop like a stone and remain there. We weren’t dead, we were barely even aware of the areas that would start stinging tomorrow. We picked and dragged ourselves to the curb. After gathering our purses and cell phones, we realized one of us didn’t seem too eager to stand on his two feet. We tried to lift him, he tried to lift himself. There was something wrong with his leg. It was facing the wrong way.
Later, standing by a stretcher table that the banged-up new friend was shaking and weeping from, at the emergency room of a hospital in Renton (after the 911 call and the giving of statements) me and the man who was walking next to me joked that we weren’t gonne tell anybody that we were hit by a car. “We will say wedQen tenesan“, we giggled; grateful, and a little embarrassed, that today wasn’t the day in which they would say of us “SiyanQeleQilachew belelit wetiTew…”.
Gebir 4: The Final Act
Did that accident do anything for my self esteem? Or the lack therefore?! I do not know. What it did is show me how easy come easy go life can be. Two weeks before that, there has been a raid at the place I have been working at for about a month. The cops came looking for drugs, all pumped up and SWAT-team like. Tall, sculpted, good looking white men in military uniforms and guns, two on each leg. They spread quickly, waving us to the door and screaming clear unprotestable orders. They didn’t find any drug, instead they found a box of stolen cigarettes the owner bought from a shady character we knew couldn’t have been a Jehovah Witness that morning. They took it anyway. With it, they took our information and our photos. After posing for the mug-shot pleasantly, and even asking if they want me to take my scarf off; I sat on the bum-freezing steps outside the restaurant door and wept. I wept because this was the sort of thing you are supposed to see on movies, back home, with your little brother and sister who are too bored and lazy to get the screaming phone. I wept because I was the sort that doesn’t take a penny from the “give a penny, take a penny” jar. I was the sort that go into the toilets and start scrubbing them clean if somebody has left a mess before me, just so people would know I wasn’t the one to blame. The fact that the women who run the little book store a block from our restaurant, also members of the anti-war/anti-racism/anti-gender inequality activist group, were waving cardboards with defiant logos on them and demanding of the cops why we were being treated this way did little to tighten the heart-strings.
I wept and my colleagues, who weren’t sure what we were being accused of (or of their innocence) looked at me with confusion and silent threat.
Nobody came after us, we knew nothing. But posing for the cops has taught me one thing: that shit happens in this country regardless of how honest you are on your taxs and reverential of the law. The car accident added a line: Shit happens in this country and a week later, you may die. So something must have put two and two together in my head and said “perhaps..”. Perhaps you should stop sweating the small stuff. Perhaps.. it must have said.. you should stop being afraid and meet your fear head-on. Be the liberator you have been waiting for. A power for change. Your own Obama.
Gebir 5: The Resolution
There isn’t a (happy) ending to this story. No snapping of fingers. No melting fears. I haven’t arrived [yet]. I may never get there. But I’ve started the journey. And that, says that voice (over), is a brave move. It says it’s so unlike the me it knew. So different from the fear-controlled existence I’ve led so far. It says “I approve”. It says “go crazy and see what happens, for a change”. It says “atta girl”. And when that voice, that invisible speaker, that friendly-demon says “yibel”; it’s hard to listen or care what else is being said.
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