it happened late at night, so late it was early, it happened when i was alone. everyone asleep. nobody to see. alone with my book, with my thoughts, with my garage sale bounty of costume jewelry and dollar store asian decor, in a place approaching stillness or something like calm. like that, for no apparent reason, all at once, every sensor would flare into overload. i was terrified. i wasn't afraid of any one thing, i wasn't afraid of anything, i simply became a physical embodiment of fear. overcome with unnameable dread, wherever i was when it happened: staring into the downstairs bathroom mirror, by the television tuned to sanford and son, in the kitchen in the dark, on the stairs, on my bed: wherever i was, suddenly the very air became intolerable, my skin screamed with danger, i needed to be somewhere else. anywhere else.
so i'd bolt.
up the stairs. down the hall. out the backdoor. into the soft patch of grass out in the middle of the yard. i didn't leave the property, though i thought about it more than once. as i got older, my boundaries shifted with my growing needs and more than once i'd surface from my terror trance in my nightshirt barefoot outside the gate of the subdivision's community pool, but the first summer i dealt with these episodes, i kept them close to home. nobody knew i did this. it was important i kept it that way. i moved as silently as i possibly could; terrified i'd disturb, inconvenience, interrupt. terrified, more than anything, i'd be forced to explain. i have no explanation. i had no explanation for why it happened then, i have no explanation for why it happens now. it just happened. i dealt with it. i deal with it. what's one more secret to swallow when you've swallowed a thousand, when the summer air swarms with secrets nobody else can be bothered with? i counted my blessings the behavior didn't land me dead in a ditch.
now, i don't know, i can't process, the unnameable dread couples dreadfully with the all-too-nameable. i don't know what will become of us. now, sometimes at night i can't lie still for this swallowed vertigo, this terror i can't run out. four stories up, some nights i can feel it. every sensor flares. i am not afraid of any one thing. i am not afraid of anything. fear embodied, i grind my teeth and i swallow and i swallow and i swallow some more.