This Friday, Dan asks:
What are the 5 scariest moments in your life, the moments when you were most filled with fear?
You’d think that, for a guy who got into horror novels and movies at a young age, I’d have a lot of answers for this one. In fact, I’m scrambling for five of them. Let’s see. In no particular order:
- The night before my 16th birthday, I had convinced my parents to let me rent the video of The Exorcist for the sleepover I had with my friends, and I’d recently read that the film was based on a real event. After the movie ended, while my friends slept on the basement floor, the appointed me to the cot of honour, and I lay there terror for hours, waiting for the cot to start bouncing and horrid voices to start coming out of my mouth. Goddamn, I was scared.
- For someone who grew up in the age of AIDS, and with a relatively conservative background (culturally speaking), I believe sexuality is potentially one of the scarier things that is basic to human life. Even scarier than being told by a girl you’re not married to, “My period’s late… I think I might be pregnant…”, even scarier than the end of a major relationship, even scarier than these things is a young man’s first brush with sex. Or, at least, mine was. (Most men I know don’t admit the same, but most women I know would.)
- While my father’s heart attack shocked me, I think fear gripped me all the more powerfully when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. I literally was terrified that it would kill him, though of course it didn’t and he (with help from my mom) fought it ferociously. But I can’t remember another time when I felt that much fear for such a long period of time, unabating fear of the absolute loss of someone I love. It was frightening as hell.
- Getting lost in what looked to me like some kind of slum in Agra was pretty damned scary. Of course, I’d done the same thing in Bangkok, following a railway on a map (wrong railway) and finding myself in the middle of a shantytown, instead of the market I expected… but that time, I hadn’t been alone and had been trying to be brave. And it’d been daytime. In Agra, at night, when a car pulled up and this guy hollered out at me, “What are you doing here? Are you alright? You shouldn’t be here! Get out, now! Go the way you came!”, I got the sense he was telling me this for my own good, but it scared the hell out of me, at the same time.
I don’t think I have ever walked anywhere as quickly as I did back the way I’d come, nor do I believe I have ever worn a more determined “Don’t talk to me, don’t come near me!” look on my face. It would have been wiser of my to keep my cool, which I’d done despite nervousness of being lost, and the weird looks some people gave me, but when the guy told me (for what appeared to be my own good) to get the hell out of there as fast as possible, I lost it and panic set in.
Ah well, I’m still alive…
- Looking down onto the Arctic ice and snow over as I flew to Korea for the first time, knowing only a little about the country, nothing of the language, no idea whether I could handle living abroad, and no friends awaiting me. Oh, it was terrifying, believe me, but in an exciting, good-for-you kind of way.
So that’s my history of fear, I guess. My scariest moments are none too scary in retrospect. In fact, it seems to me, in retrospect, it’s the things I never truly feared that could have done me in.
For example, if the plane I’d been flying to Korea in had crashed; if the guys in Agra hadn’t told me to get out of the neighborhood; if I’d become a father out of wedlock; if I’d been psychologically traumatized by the movie I watched and gone crazy or religious-extremist… these things were possibly the things I should have feared most. It’s not the things you fear that threaten most pressingly, I guess. Usually, it’s the things you don’t fear that get you.