“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself...That is the moment you might be starting to get it right.”
-- Neil Gaiman
Sweaty palms. Palpitations. Shallow breaths. The shakes.
Public speaking. Spiders. Clowns.
Some people do everything within their human power to eat the right things, move the right way, swallow the right supplements and pay the right doctors—not to be as healthy as they can be so as to live life to its fullest, but to delay that certain deadline for as long as possible.
Because they’re scared.
Public speaking, spiders and clowns don’t really get to me. I don’t have nightmares about those. Death isn’t my hang-up, either. I know where I’ll end up when I breathe my last, and I’m looking forward to that heavenly destination. I do, however, have a couple of ways I’d prefer not to take that journey.
Namely anything involving a bridge.
Why the fear of bridges? (And I’m not talking about a simple, I-don’t-care-for-it fear; this is irrational, unreasonable, heart-clenching terror). Is it the height of the thing? I don’t care for heights, they make my head spin. But heights only spark an extreme physiological response when coupled with a bridge.
Maybe it’s the water snaking underneath. Probably not. I have the same adrenaline rampage whether the ramp of terror is over a dried-up creek bed or a concrete tangle of roadways.
Maybe it’s the general lack of trust in the architects and contractors. Perhaps they showed up intoxicated on bridge-building day or used sub-par materials that will crumble little by little until the day I need to cross it and that concrete gives in to gravity in mighty chunks.
Maybe some wife somewhere was reminding her husband to bring home eggs when he should have been concentrating on that all-important angle measurement—the very measurement that holds the entire bridge together until the day I drive over it and I and my passengers end up scrambled in a billion pieces below.
Or maybe my parents held me upside down by my ankles from some overpass as a form of punishment and I buried the trauma until adulthood. My mother denies this. My father’s not around to ask, so it’s still a working theory…
Until recently, a bridge was the only thing that brought thick black curtains into my peripheral vision to smother out the light.
Because recently I hit the submit button and sent my first piece of fiction into cyberspace for all the world to see.
See, I wanted a pen name. A real pen name. Not because I’m ashamed of my writing or that I’m producing X-rated content and if word got out my mother would disown me. Or throw me off a bridge…
Quite the contrary. I like my stories. I have a blast writing them. They give me a creative outlet. They give me an escape from the doldrums and drama of daily life. And it’s cheaper to write a story than to pay a therapist.
But what good are stories if they’re tucked away in a drawer? Maybe someone else would enjoy them. Maybe something in a story could lift someone’s spirits or save them money on their therapy bill. Maybe I could publish. Maybe I could build a side income—or a career—with my writing.
And I could hide my introverted self behind a pen name. (The reason I don’t have one is a tale for another time.)
If the stories were a success, so be it. If not, I’d keep writing, change my pen name and try again, saving myself and my family the embarrassment of my failed art… because no one would know. Pen name. See?
Harder to change my real name. Harder to bite the bullet and commit to the art of it. And the consequences, whatever those may be.
My sweet aunt stopped for a visit after cleaning up my grandparents’ grave for Memorial Day. As she gave me an update on the state of the cemetery, I remembered my short story The Gatherer, which I printed for her.
“You might like it. Let me know.” Then the sweaty palm thing. So I added, “If you don’t like it, lie to me.”
She texted me later. Loved the story. Nearly made me cry. Keep writing.
My heart soared. Then the palpitation thing. Maybe she took my advice and lied.
Maybe she really did like it.
Whatever the case, the story is out there. Exposed. Waiting for judgement or accolades or neither.
Whatever the outcome, this writing journey has started. It’s already taken detours, dodged roadkill and navigated a hairpin turn or two.
And maybe, just maybe, there won’t be too many bridges…
Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on the first Friday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.