Those of us that walk the tightrope of fear, know only too well how provocative that taut wire can be. A gust of wind and we quiver like a plucked guitar string across a fret. In the current climate of the coronavirus, moments of joy are ever more vital.
Keeping fear at bay is the new challenge for everyone, in the whirlwind of media agitation.
When I was frightened as a child, I’d climb up the slightly opened drawers of my brother’s cupboard into the upper reaches of the top space, which housed the forgotten. That is what my mother called them, as she reacquainted herself with various items in a random spring clean.
I’d pull each drawer out a little less, shimming up, my simian toes clinging to the wooden edge. Several trips up and down, I’d go, hauling my supplies, when the coast was clear, my brother away on teenage business and my parents busy turning the soil in their garden.
I padded the base of the shelf with a patchwork quilt. A tower of neglected rugs was piled tightly in the opening of one of the sides of the sliding cupboard. The perfect camouflage, it squashed back as I squirrelled inside, returning to form, to conceal the entrance to my safe space.
I would retreat up into space, crack open the sliding door a fraction for air, lie against a small pillow, eat stolen biscuits and read until there was no daylight left or on a dull day, the batteries in my torch weakened to an ever-fading circle of light.
At times I was party to the dirty sniggers between my brother and his friends about the ‘chicks’ that floated across their minds when they were alone in the dark. On one occasion, I swear I was half baked, with the smoke trail of dope wafting up into the cupboard. I imagined what it was to feel like an emaciated tiger wedged high in a tree. I crept down slowly when the coast was clear, my head spinning, and my stomach racing towards the fridge.
My hidden place was discovered abruptly when I fell. Writhing in agony on the polished floor, I looked up into the bewildered faces of my mother and brother and our yapping dachshund. My father just shook his head, scooped me up and drove me to the local doctor. He was well experienced in my repertoire of shenanigans. A slight concussion and twisted ankle my punishment. My mother, a nurse, said it was a wasted trip, as I wasn’t sufficiently bleeding.
Since then, I have been drawn to alcoves, corners and created spaces that feel safe, with something secure against my back. I’ve tended to stay clear of treehouses, and elevated platforms. I did once abseil, and once was enough.
In the current climate of fear with the spread of the coronavirus, creating safe spaces seems to include sourcing mountains of toilet tissue, anti-bacterial gel, bags of rice and a variety of canned goods.
Fear can drive humans to behave like wild caged animals, with little regard for whom they harm in the process of escaping to find a safer space. Social media has captured fights in the toilet paper aisles of supermarkets, with no care for the frail elderly woman who wanted a single pack for herself.
The irony of the transmitting of this virus between caged wild animals in wet markets, to our self-inflicted isolation pods to contain the spread, is almost comical if it wasn’t lethal and just plain stupid and completely avoidable with some common sense.
In the midst of this state of hypervigilance, I refuse to let fear, steal my joy. I’m just going to sing happy birthday twice every time I wash my hands with soap, which will be I assure you, often.