Feel The Fear

Entry by: jaguar

3rd August 2017
When we first met it felt like magnets repulsing each other. My feeling for you was strong but it wasn’t attraction. I needed you to approve of me but I didn’t know who either of us was. You made me feel like an egg-white – see-through and quivering – waiting to be beaten into something else. It wasn’t fear, it wasn’t hatred, it was anger at everything in the universe, including, no especially, me.

I avoided groups you belonged to. I carved out my own creative, slightly off-kilter path. I took up with the drummer from a band I’d once heard you say were talentless. I moved in with him and his drum-kit to a flat shoved under the eaves in a Victorian building. The first morning I opened the bedroom curtains and there you were, staring at me across the rooftops, just twenty feet away. That knowing grin on your face, as if you’d expected me to be there.

For weeks and weeks we ignored each other at the bus stop on our way into university. Sometimes I went early to avoid you but, somehow, there you’d be. All perfect and pretty, arm-in-arm with the most wanted boy in our year. Gliding through life like you were a waterboatman skating. One of those who had everything except any idea what it might feel like to be me. But why should you care?

The only course we were both on was Creative Writing. One seminar I forgot to guard against you, read a piece I’d written with a drum-kit as a metaphor for an abused woman. It was quite good but darker than coal. The tutor said it showed naïve talent. On the way out I said to a friend: ‘Is naïve talent an insult or praise.’

‘It’s what I wish I had.’ You spoke right behind us. ‘How I wish I could just write things with such natural power, rather than niggling away at everything I do.’

I looked round as my friend evaporated, blurted: ‘But you’re brilliant. You get A’s every time. You must know you’re good.’ You really were good, the standout of our group.

You laughed. ‘Everything I read I wrote years ago. I tweak it to fit the prompt. I haven’t written a thing since I got to this twee, safe place. I can’t feel anything here. I’m going through the motions. I’m utterly uninspired.’

I gawped at you. There were so many things to stimulate me here, so much that was new, all these shiny people. I wrote like it was a bodily function, must be done several times a day. I wasn’t exactly happy but I was on fire and I could feel words burning their way out of me. ‘You need something new, slightly scary.’

You grinned and that smug smile tore itself open. ‘I’ve been thinking about that. There’s a little mopedy thing for sale, takes two people. We come in at the same time each day. Do you fancy us both learning, maybe buy it between us?’

Back then you didn’t need to take a test. You could get on one and go so that’s what we did. We were lethal, no sense of other traffic, doggedly ploughing through the lanes, oblivious to the danger. Or I was. It clearly scared you sometimes. You’d squeal if I tried to do more than 25mph around the corners. Once we were both spilled into the road and you clutched at my grazed arm.

‘So many old bruises.’ You pointed and I hung my head so you knew it was true. You unraveled the long sleeve from my other arm. ‘Good God Julia! Why are you putting up with this?’

‘I always have.’ My honesty surprised me. Somewhere buried inside there’s the sense that this is what I deserve. It has to be because it always happens. From father to brother to boyfriends, sooner or later I’m something to hit like a drum kit. ‘I’m the common denominator.’

‘What rubbish.’ You stroke my stained-glass arm. ‘Those bullies just feel the fear. You flinch away from people so. Come and stay with me.’

I smile. You don’t know about the lures he uses. You have no notion of the sugared foil wraps, the sweet melting into yourself until all your unworthiness is gone. You have no idea what a black hole I am.

‘It’s not that bad. But thank you.’ I heave the moped upright, clamber on. ‘We’re going to be late and it’s your favourite lecturer.’

The graze is still bleeding later that night when he hits me with the drum sticks and I rear up, surprise him enough to run for the bedroom, shove a chair under the door handle, tippy-toe the wardrobe against the chair. But if I moved it, it won’t take long for the grunting monster the other side of the door to break through. I turn and catch your eyes. You're waving at me, telling me to come, holding up a bottle of vodka.

I hike the window open, know there is a short drop to the flat roof but then there’s a sea of tiles, up and down like waves between me and you. You're shouting: 'Just do it, you fear nothing, if anyone can it’s you.'

I'm sad that you still don’t get me. I fear everything rather than nothing but my fears are giants in comparison with yours. He’s yelling now, the words Die and Bitch bob up like party balloons in a sea of vitriol. The chair breaks. The wardrobe screams across the floor.

I’m on the roof, slam the window down. Think about crouching there and dissolving into the air or hurling myself off for that brief flight. Think I’ve often been nothing at all, what does this matter? This has always been on the cards. Why fight it? But my feet are running, sliding up the next roof. moving so fast my intent seems to matter more than the slipping, the inevitability of the fall.

Until the slip catches. You pull me against you, both of us teetering below your window. Your safe boyfriend reaches down, clutches my waist, hauls awkward me in, strokes me like a frightened pet. I'm still holding your hand and then you're safe beside me. The noise of shouting is blocked as you close the window.

'I'm writing loads,' you say waving the vodka bottle, 'you scared me enough. Don't ever do it again.'