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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Books that feed my fears.

I have a few major fears.

1. Earthworms on wet sidewalks. Millikin used to get covered in worms in the fall and it grosses me out. I hate the feeling of stepping on a worm on wet pavement. The way you slip a little as you grind out it’s life. I hate not being able to distinguish worms from twigs after the sun goes down. Lamps make them look identical.

2. Long, steep escalators that suprise me. I used to not be afraid of escalators, but Macy’s in New York when I was 16 added this fear to my list. On the fourth and fifth floors, the escalators are made of WOOD. Wooden moving stairwells, hundreds of feet from the ground floor. It made me white knuckle to be on an antique escalator, looking down 5 stories through the store. Then in Atlanta when I was 19, I got off the MARTA and rounded a corner. In front of me, there was an escalator that went up hundreds of feet in front of me. Steep and long and unexpected, I whiteknuckled the whole five minute ride to the sidewalk. In London they jumped out at me at Camden Market and from the Picadilly line. I think I finally conquered this one, just cause I can’t get around them and after climbing the stairs at Camden once, I realized the long escalators have an important job.

3. Raw Octopus. Totally irrational, but have a dinner in Ginza in Tokyo, I no longer eat octopus sashimi or sushi. I was sitting seisa at a formal dinner and popped a bit of octopus into my mouth. YUCK. The texture got to me first, but my imagination quickly caught up. What if the octopus isn’t quite dead? What it if comes to life when I am swallowing it? What if it tries to crawl back up my throat? Surrounded my IES students, I couldn’t remove the offending marine animal from my mouth. I just sat and chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed. Eventually I swallowed, but vowed it was the last octopus I would ever eat.

4. Losing my mind and going crazy. This is my biggest fear. I come across crazy people everyday, everywhere I go in Chicago. My biggest fear is becoming one of them. Crazy. Nutso. Schizo. Nutters. Looney. Lunatic. Smelly. Unkept. Homeless. Pariah.

The last three books I’ve read, Basic Eight, The Pleasure of My Company, and The Curious Incident, have all been about crazy people. I realize saying crazy isn’t politically correct or caring, but it is easier to type. Besides, I’m not afraid of a managed condition–I’m afraid of uncontrolled crazy. I don’t worry that one day I’ll see a counselor and take medicines, I worry that I’ll slip into a world of counting, hording, and talking to myself without support of family or health care.

It is the biggest thing that makes me say, “there for the grace of god, go I.” I know that my family won’t let me go crazy, but I see it so much in the city. These people once had loving families–right? Before they sat on bus benches and peed their pants–once they were sons who played catch with dads, sisters who played dress-up on rainy fall afternoons. Right?

I know it doesn’t happen overnight, but that is my fear. I could wake up tomorrow and not understand people anymore. I don’t know if the part where I keep picking up humanizing books about autistic/ocd people is supposed to help me or not. See, when you go crazy–you’ll still be human.

5. I can’t think of a good fifth fear. Other than never buying my own place, being a spinster with 18 cats, losing my passport, becoming a republican, and not “understanding” today’s music.

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