I’m not the most courageous creature around.
From an outsider’s point of view, I probably seem quite the coward; and with bold and brassy being the “New Woman” of today’s age, this has, as you can imagine, done wonders for my self-esteem.
For one thing, I am an introvert. Now, some introverts are the brave and silent type: the ones who lean against walls in school hallways, and in public, speaking very little, but flaring into action should anyone threaten them, or anyone threaten someone around them.
I am not that kind of introvert—and besides, usually the stoic-yet-secretly-soft-hearted-and-self-sacrificing act only works for men, not women. I am not even one of those fetching damsel-in-distress ladies, who screams at all the right moments as the prince or nearby male specimen immolates himself before the dragon’s wrath, dabbing at her eyes with a lacy pocket handkerchief. If such a beast were to stumble into my neighborhood, by the time Prince Charming arrived, he would find me in the middle of several panic attacks, each one overlapping one another, whilst curled up in a fetal position on the floor of my boudoir, waiting for death. Very attractive, no?
Instead, I’m more of the quick-hide-there’s-person type of introvert. The reclusive kind, who occasionally jumps at the sight of her own shadow, and believes, for a split second, heart jolting, that a pile of clothes on a chair, shadowed in the evening light, is in fact an intruder who has snuck into her home. Who flees from people the way some do from raging bulls, and begins stuttering like a broken record if she were, God forbid, addressed by another living, breathing creature.
In fact, I would even go so far as to say that some might even call me “spineless”. Or perhaps timid, shy. Retiring. Take your pick, really, as it makes no difference, for all those adjectives tend to mean mean the same thing to most people these days. In essence, my spirit animal is the snail, aloof and fragile, who retracts into its shell at the slightest provocation, and is disliked by a great many of the giants galumphing about in the world—a dislike that sometimes extends into the realm of squashing.
Anything which can possibly pose the slightest threat frightens me. I have turned fear into an art form. Just off the top of my head, picked out from an endless list, I am frightened of germs, cars, roads, people, strange people, men, spaces larger than my bedroom, tall people, the outside world, the universe, and silverfish slithering within the pages of books. Each of those has, in the past, been the cause of countless miniature heart attacks. Each of those has spawned its own colony of compulsive, avoidant and repetitive behaviours, ranging from an inability to leave the house to excessive chunks of the day spent meditating thinking about meadows and waterfalls. Frankly, until you have met me, neuroticism can only exist in your mind as a myth.
When it comes to horror movies, I am a complete wimp, and on the rare occasions I do find myself reeled into one—often by my brother, who has so far exhibited a disturbing preference for them over more pleasant films—I invariably find myself either retreating to the bathroom before the opening credits end, or lying awake at night for the next month or so, staring up at the ceiling for hours, too afraid to even leave my bed to go to the bathroom, where undoubtedly some slimy, scabbed arm will come lunging out of the toilet bowl to drag me down to a watery, and unsanitary, death. To give you a better idea of my wimpiness, as a child, I watched the stop-motion film “Wallace & Grommit and the Curse of the Wererabbit” one Saturday night, when it was on television, and promptly developed insomnia for the next ten years.
Not only am I cowardly to an extreme degree—we can prattle on about sensitivities and finely-tuned nervous systems all day, if you want, but the fact of the matter is people like me are often dismissed as wimps the moment others set eyes on us—I am also very, erm, delusional, much of the time. You see, the reason my fear is often so great is because my mind blow everything out of proportion. I attribute it to having an imagination—it is a thought taht provides some small comfort as one wades through the usual series of daily agonies. This nifty little imagination of mine, however, has various other unfortunate side-effects, one of which is delusional thinking, another manifestation of my overall cowardliness.
Let me give you an example. Once, in fifth grade, Yours Truly fell in love with a boy. Oh, this was love, alright. She couldn’t stop thinking about him, couldn’t be in the same room as him without clamming up, or being overcome by a sudden desire to flee, preferably to the farthest reaches of the observable universe, where she would spend her time fiddling with stars to spell his name into constellations he would be able to see in the sky from Earth. He was perfect. Dashing. Sincere. Sensitive.
And she was convinced he felt the same, the signs were all there—until one afternoon he humiliated her in front of the entire class, that is, and she realised, after crying for hours in her bedroom, more out of confusion than anything else, that he viewed her as an academic competitor rather than a love interest. That he, in fact, loathed her, for her intelligence, for her awkwardness, only she hadn’t been able to see it. Her imagination had clouded all sense. In response to such hatred, she had, instead, ardently loved him. Tell me honestly, if you heard this story, whether you would not think the female in question was off her rocker? From that day onwards, she avoided him. Seeing him in the school corridors made her jump. On her deathbed, if he were to suddenly materialize, she would postpone dying and escape from the hospital, just to get away from him.
So, in a nutshell, I am a scatter-brained, flighty, solitary, confused, detached, and, above all, cowardly young lady, whose only solace is her imagination, and writing. The mismatch between myself, and the city life bustling around me, chock-full of dangers at every turn, is so acute as to be excruciating. I would, in a heartbeat, trade my very soul for a lonely cottage out in the moors, beneath a greyish-white sky, with nothing but purplish heather for miles—but then I’d probably be frightened of the wolf howls echoing across the land in the middle of the night, and end up hiding under the bed with my cats, eyes shut and desperately thinking about meadows and waterfalls.