I ran alone and did not bring my phone. I looked into the woods and considered blazing a trail up into the cool, dark places. I was home and these were my woods. I knew the color of the light that cut through the trees. Men in trucks were just men in trucks. Stray dogs would come up and let you give them a pat.
I did not fear the dark of night. The sighs of the bats were comforting to me there.
I recognized the fear when my husband and I were first dating. He brought me out of the city and into the woods to visit his dad. After dinner, I wanted a smoke. I’d left my cigarettes in the car and set out to get them by myself. As soon as I stepped out of the light from the porch, the darkness overtook me. I had been gone from home for ten or more years by then and was accustomed to the halo of street lights. I panicked and ran for the car. I brought my cigarette back to the light to smoke it. I would not go into the dark alone again. I would not.
Living in the city, I had learned to fear the dark places. Walking back from the T alone at night, I ran through the near-dark spaces.
Once you recognize the fear, you can replace it with another energy. This is what a therapist once taught me. Your anxiety is actually fear. Understand what you are afraid of and then you can conquer it. And if you cannot conquer it, then at least you can take comfort in recognizing it.
At home, I fear the night. The time when my child is in one room and I am in another, both of us asleep and vulnerable. I worry about someone crawling through a window and snatching him as he sleeps. I tell this to a friend and she tells me that I’m being crazy. I agree with her but then the news is filled with stories of children snatched from their bedrooms. I say, “See? See? It’s not such an irrational fear.” But I know that it is irrational and unlikely.
Still, I fear people lurking outside. I lock the windows. I do not look out.
But there, back there, I was not so afraid. I ran out on that road alone and did not worry about who might take me. I ran until I was tired and then I turned around and ran back. My comfort there was maybe as irrational as my fear here, but it didn’t matter. I could breathe.
I was not afraid and I could breathe. But then the man in the truck drove up ahead and parked and pulled down the back of the trailer to load something on it and I was scared. I did not know what he would do to me. When I passed by, I said hello and he said hello back. He went about his work. He did nothing.
I remembered the time, back in the city, when I ran alone in the morning at the arboretum. I ran up the hill as the sun rose as I had done morning and morning and morning before. At the top,a group of young men sat quietly. They might have been meditating for all I knew but all I knew was fear. I could not see the individuals at all. I could only see the group. My head said, be rational, but my body said, run.
And so I ran, fast. I did not run on the path, instead I ran down the steepest part of the hill. I might have fallen but I ran. I ran and ran until I got home, so sure that they were following me, but when I stopped running and looked behind me, nobody was there.