“Aren’t you afraid?” a librarian friend of mine recently asked me.
“Not anymore,” I replied. “I used to be scared a lot. I was scared all of the time when I was a child. Being afraid begins as an infant, you know, when parents symbolically abandon their children to a crib and then turn out all the lights to leave you alone in the dark. It’s like being placed into a casket and lowered into a grave while you’re still alive. Then your parents inadvertently exacerbate your terror by introducing you to tales of the boogeyman before turning out the lights. But parents do it so subtly you barely notice at first. They start by saying a simple little prayer: ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.’ Of course, that raises all kinds of questions in your infantile mind about dying before waking, and of some medieval lord-like being coming in the night to snatch your soul away. Then your parents compound your growing fear by saying, ‘Goodnight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.’ So you begin to notice things moving in the night that are coming to bite you. And when your parents tell you there is no such thing as the boogeyman who hides in your closet or under your bed, you don’t believe them. ”
“But you’re no longer afraid? Why not?”
“Oh, I grew up. Now I pay the electric bill and I get to control the light switches and never turn out the lights. I keep a flashlight by my pillow and a crucifix over my bed and garlands of garlic draped over Christ on the cross. I have a nine millimeter Beretta loaded with silver bullets in the drawer of a nightstand and a 5.56 millimeter under the sheets with me. There are infra-red security cameras all around the periphery of my house that project wi-fi images to monitors in my bedroom and an alarm sounds to wake me if even a mouse gets close to the house. I have back-up batteries for power in case the grid goes down or someone cuts the wires to my house. I keep a cell phone with me at all times. I have a tornado and bomb shelter built in a sub-basement that’s stocked with supplies to last decades. I no longer watch Fox news. Why should I be afraid?”
“Of course,” I added, “my parents are both dead, my siblings have all died, my wife left me (or did she die, too, I forget), and most of my friends have perished for one reason or another. I suppose I should be afraid I’ll be next. But I’m not afraid. Maybe you should be afraid, though, because I consider you a friend. You know what happens to everyone I’ve loved or befriended over the years? They’ve died or I’ve driven them off.”