You were selling me security, safety. My parents, of course, were on board with this. In the beginning, you started off with simple lessons:
Don't cross the street without holding someone's hand; you could be hit by a car.
Don't play with Dad's razor; you could get cut.
Wear a helmet when you ride your bike; you could damage your head.
After a little while, I started to trust you. You became more and more a part of my life--you moved in, you came with me to school, to church, to the park. You followed me, always just behind me, always ready to jump in and save me from myself.
Still, I made you crazy at times. I could be stubborn. Like the time I ignored your screaming at me not to play with fire. That was the day I almost burned the woods down. I spent 30 minutes stamping out little flames, and you scolded me the whole time. I still think it was one of the funniest days of my life.
It took something a little more close to home for me to listen to you, though.
You remember that night, right? The night my girlfriend told me she was upset because I had ignored her, that she spent the day with that one guy, that she ended the night with her lips on his?
I was lying on the floor, pieces of my heart scattered around me, when you laid your hand on my shoulder like the gnarled claws of a vulture and whispered in my ear, "You see? You see what happens when you open your heart? You see what happens when you make a mistake?"
I did see. You helped me up, and you wrapped your arms around me, and you said, "I know what's best." I nodded and rested my head on your shoulder. You smelled like a hospital room.
Every day, I affixed all of the pieces of armor you wanted me to wear under my clothes. To protect you, you would say. And I would drag myself, clumsy, clanking, toward the door to face the dangerous world outside.
For a while, I walked only where you allowed me to walk. I tried only what you allowed me to try. I shared only what you allowed me to share. I loved only how you allowed me to love.
I would see someone living out their dreams, but you would be there, just over my shoulder, to point out that I could never do that. Tsk, tsk. Too risky.
I would start to speak up about what I wanted or needed, but you would put your hand over my mouth and remind me that she might leave me. Shh. It's not important, then.
You worked so hard to get me like that. You miss those days, I'm sure.
We were in the middle of a fight, you and me. Who knows anymore what set it off, but I was standing there in all my cumbersome armor and telling you how claustrophobic it had all become and how I hated living like this and how I didn't think you actually cared about my well-being after all.
"Without me," you said through clenched teeth, "you wouldn't survive."
I looked at you and began to peel off the armor you made me wear. They fell to the ground until I was surrounded by cast-iron flakes of skin.
"Do your worst," I said.
You pulled a revolver, black as your eyes, out of your coat and pointed it straight at my heart. I followed the barrel with my eyes to your hand and up your arm and shoulder and to your sick, still face with all its quiet hate.
I thought you were bluffing.
I was wrong.
After you pulled the trigger, after you left me a bloody mess there on the floor, you thought you had finally broken me for good.
You thought you had made me your blind Samson, shackled and docile, with nothing left to do but grind grain and wait for death.
You were wrong.
I saw you, Fear, do your worst, and realized my heart was still squeezing blood to all corners of my body, my lungs were still feeding me air, and that your gospel of safety and security and self preservation was a slick sales pitch designed to steal my life, not protect it.
Now that I've seen you for what you are--not a friend, not family, not someone who wants what's best but a slimy, slithering parasite--I want you out. Gone. You're not welcome here anymore.
No more following me like my shadow. No more whispers in my ear. No more scary stories at night while I'm trying to fall asleep. I'm done with that now.
I'm sure I'll find you on the sidewalk outside my house begging to get a word in, or that I'll find some messages from you late at night trying to tell me about how dangerous it is to put my heart on the line or dream dreams or risk disappointment. I'm sure you'll do everything you can to work yourself back in.
Go ahead and try.
I stared down the barrel of your gun.
I watched you pull the trigger.
I felt your bullet tear through my flesh and lodge itself in my chest.
On what should have been my death bed, Love found me, reached inside and pulled the bullet out and reconnected my blood vessels and pieced my tissue back together and set my rib cage back in place and told my heart to beat and my lungs to expand and stood me on my feet and looked me in my eyes and said in a voice simultaneously as powerful as a waterfall and as soft as the dew:
"Fear no longer has power here."
Love has moved in now, and I only have room for one.
I hope you'll understand.