You Scare Me
You scare me. When a message from you arrives, the first feeling I have is one of panic. It’s so fast and strong, that it takes me minutes to calm down. It doesn’t matter what you say, so much as that it is you who is saying it. I remember that there was a time when I felt excited to hear from you. I was neither afraid nor worried when your name came up on my screen. Now, whether I’m doing dishes or walking down the street, I’m always on edge when you text me.
When did you start to scare me? You’re not actually scary in person. You stand two heads shorter than me, bobbing, laughing, and joyous. I used to hold you against me at night. Maybe it was the time when we were on the bus back to your apartment, and I looked up at you and felt that I could no longer recognize you. That was scary. Maybe it was when we said goodbye, standing on the threshold, the door swung open to an early winter chill. That was scary.
Why do I feel scared at all? I know that in my head it comes down to the amygdala, one of the parts of the brain which specializes in processing fear. Even before the prefrontal cortex can contextualize what’s going on around us, the amygdala leaps in with a fight or flight response. Our pupils dilate, our heart rate speeds up, our stomach muscles tighten, and adrenaline courses through our bodies. That’s all well and good if you were a charging rhinoceros, but we used to hold hands.
So, why do you scare me? I think it’s because we’ve both hurt each other a lot. Maybe we didn’t mean to, maybe we’ve both apologized, but that doesn’t undo the damage. I think that it is the idea of you that scares me most. Your name and what it means to me, instead of the person you actually are. We’ve tried to fix things, we’ve tried to plan things. Now, I have as many feelings against you as I do for you. This isn’t normal, and this isn’t right.
How do you get over something that scares you? You face your fears. I would love to go to the museum with you on Tuesday. I know a great restaurant just a ten minute walk away. Let me know if you’d like to come.
Also published on Medium.