Phobophobia: Fear of Fears
John A. Ward
Dorsal Winner

I decide to conquer my fears.  The first is agoraphobia, fear of open places.  All I have to do is get out the door, but it isn't easy.  My house is cluttered.  Some of my treasures may be appraised for millions on the Antiques Road Show, if they don't collapse the foundation and capsize the walls.  At night the nails shriek as they pull out of the framing timbers. How many nails are in a house?  How much more screeching must I endure?

Stacks and piles spill over, form and reform the caverns that permeate my abode, an effusion of rubbish blocks the portal.  It won't close.  No worries.  There's plenty to steal, but any thief will be overwhelmed.  All is safe.

Next comes crackophobia.  Since childhood, when I first heard, "Step on a crack and break your mother's back," I avoided treading on the expansion joints in the sidewalk.  Today, I take special pains to step on every one. This takes great leaping strides where the fissures are far apart and little tiny mincing steps where the path is crafted from cobblestones.  I try all of the variations I remember from a game called Red Rover, giant steps, umbrella steps, Cinderella steps.  I even make up a few, because there are no rules now.  Don't even bother to ask, "May I?"  Far away, in the Shady Rest Cemetery, my mother's vertebrae separate and form random patterns on the bottom of the coffin.  No problem.  Surely God doesn't want a bunch of decrepit corpses hanging around on Judgment Day.  He will give everybody new bodies with a death time warranty.  Won't He?  Don't answer that.  It's a rhetorical question.  Of course He will.

At Shallow Lake Park, I walk straight to the bank of the lake to conquer my next fear.  It's not called hydrophobia.  That word is reserved for rabies. Maybe it's aquaphobia, fear of water.  I step into the lake.  With any luck, I can walk across the surface like a Jesus bird.  No luck, I sink to my ankles in the muck.  It sucks my Chuck TaylorT Converse All StarsT right off with my first shploking steps.  The blue-eared sunfish scatter.  They don't look so scary.  At the center, I am still no more than waist deep. 

On the far bank the stony crags of Turtle Mountain rise high into the thin cold air.  It is time to face acrophobia, fear of becoming an acrobat while standing on top of a high place.  Victory is mine.  I will reach the summit and turn back again, retrace my steps as I have on the third day of the third month every day since I was thirty-three.

First published: August, 2009
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