On facing your fears


The internet was out in Bushwick today. It was out when I came back to my apartment in the morning, and it stayed out after I showered and ate an egg sandwich. It was out at the cafe I planted myself at for the morning—the one with lots of seating that always reminds me of my college haunts. The one where, today, sitting at the communal table there, I was elated. (Never have I ever released so much serotonin on a workday. I watched folks walk by through the window and said over slack, "wow maybe u rly do have to love urself in order to love someone else" to A, who reminded me how that exact sentiment had been in the fortune cookie I had a week or two earlier.) The internet was out at the film lab on the way home, even though they run on the free, volunteer-run, community internet service provider! Who knew this even existed! It was out when I sat outside to squeeze the last few drops of bandwidth out of my iphone's cellular hotspot, and it was out when I locked myself out of my apartment. I had run downstairs after a meeting to switch my laundry, and once the dryer started spewing its familiar clank I went to open my door and could not. Uh oh! My recurring nightmare—the scenario I dread every laundry day, the fear that makes me pat my keys three separate times before checking my mail—had finally metamorphosed into reality. How stupid could I be?? Maybe the door was just stuck, I had really unlocked when I went out? Maybe my keys were just in my pocket and I didn't feel them? No, the rumors were true, I was locked out. No keys, no phone, just a pair of useless airpods, my wallet, and bright yellow crocs. By some bizarre miracle I did not spontaneously combust into a ball of pure anxiety and instead knocked on my neighbors' doors for a phone. 1F, no response. 2F, 2B, 3F, no response. Finally 3B, just finishing a work call, internet also out, opened up and called our Hasidic landlord, Sam, to see if he could let me in. I had often wondered how he'd react in this situation. Would he drop everything and rush to my aid or would I have to wait until deep in the night? Would he be available at all? It's always nice to find answers to those longstanding questions in unexpected ways. "I'll be there soon, but I'm not sure when," he said. Not exactly reassuring, but thank G–d I didn't get locked out on Shabbat! While I waited for Sam I tried to break into my own apartment. It's very easy to climb into my backyard from the street (something I had long since suspected and to be honest was quite eager to try) but surprisingly hard to get inside. Unluckily for me all our windows and doors were locked and I wasn't getting anything open without breaking it. This in itself was quite reassuring and kind of a nice assuagement of an unrelated fear. I could, however, see my work computer stuck on the google meet post-call splash page through the window, and I hoped nobody was frantically trying to get in contact with me (they weren't; nobody even knew I was gone). I had taken my watch off inside, so my only way of measuring time was by the roughly one-hour long dryer cycle I had started when everything began. Luckily, Sam came before that ended, and I made it back into my (still internetless) apartment just in time to run the dryer a second time because my clothes were still just as wet as they were when I put them in. What feels better than to shine the light on your fear and see that they are nothing more than 40-minute long inconveniences? To realize that you really are capable of calling your landlord from your neighbor's phone and waiting and this probably happens to a lot of people all the time and not just you? When he came, Sam pointed at the switch on the side of the door and said, "you know you can just flip this to unlock it, right?" And maybe that's true of more than just the door—maybe sometimes things feel impossible, overwhelming, but if you need to you can just flip the switch and solve them when you really need to. But just for the record, that switch is broken on my door. --- That same evening, I finally replaced the spatula I lost (it was stolen. how can you lose a spatula) with a nicer version. Then, while walking to my friend's apartment I ran into her ex on a citibike, and we chatted for a moment before he biked away. Half an hour later I learned that just after our encounter he biked straight into a taxi and shattered its taillight. At her apartment, my friend told me that my ex is about to move in with her boyfriend who I hadn't known about, and I couldn't help but imagine him for the entire train ride home. But the album I was listening to ended just as I stepped out of the train and into the languid spring air. Some fears are just not worth facing !