I can’t go outside without a good reason until I live on my own. My sister’s presence is familiar, but we don’t always get along. Everyone else is startling.
I listen to my mother worry over the news, over the big city, over the latest shooting. At school, kids talk about hanging out, hearing shots, and running home. Yet, some of them are laughing, and I’m in class with no concept of how that feels. Do they sound scared, or am I?
After church, mom scolds me for giving them $1 to get me candy from the corner store. She tells me to never allow favors lest trouble find them on the way, because then that would be partly my fault. I’ve never forgotten to worry over the consequences of kindness.
Today I find myself tired of the challenge to feel freedom amid fear. Ingrained in my mind, amassed in my bones, birthed across generations of folks, trauma doesn’t die. It persists in futurity, demanding to be grieved and reconciled.
In this burdened body, “fun” requires unlearning. When I bound, my nerves recall a fear of decay and the way it has stained my development. Growth is vulnerability is embarrassment is a trigger for infantilization. So newness requires safe spaces when the unfamiliar embodies a promise to subject me to shame. Still, I try.
In the middle of traffic on Constitution Ave, or some other patriotic drive, I find myself leaning into you. Nestling against the hardness and softness that gives shape to your form, I allow myself to be a little princess.
Perched on the front of our scooter wrists angled awkwardly, I will myself not to worry about what may happen to you because of me, and I trust that you know how to react in the face of fear.
Though we’re going all but 15 miles fast, even slower uphill, I’ve got a smug grin plastered across my petrified face, watching all the people we’re flying past; they’re smiling just the same. Why does everyone look terrified?
Hollering as we zoom, I revel in how glad I am to have someone who will go slow with me, who knows this is daring. Who will remind me as I fidget, ever readjusting my grip, to keep my hands off the throttle.
I do consider that you may have loved other people who aren’t restrained by fear, but I leave this thought to the wind; your tenderness tells me I am not a choice made for lack of other options. You love me despite my limits, despite my naïveté.
I even imagine that by the end of our ride I will venture on my own, laugh with a sense of lightness and race death in stride.