Hands shaking, heart pounding, mind racing, stomach wrenching fear. The type of fear that makes you want to bite your nails until they’re all gone. The fight or flight instinct kicks in and adrenaline starts to rush. My skin is the personification of people’s fear. I have done nothing wrong, yet my skin coats me, covering me from head to toe. It wraps around me, suffocating me. People are coming to fight me, for I am the personification of their fear. As my stomach churns, I know that I am afraid of what my skin means for me. I am afraid of their fear of me. It is a vicious cycle of never-ending fear.
Time could not go any faster or slower. As I sit on my couch, I am hyper-aware of everything that is going on around me. My couch, my home transferred into the middle of a warzone. My mind starts to run through worst-case scenarios. Hands shaking, heart pounding, mind racing, stomach wrenching fear. I have so much energy I can’t sit still. I am overwhelmed by the many thoughts spinning through my brain, I feel like it’s going to explode. Trash bins were pulled into the garage to remove easily accessible weapons or containers for fire. Pots and pans sit on random tables to scare intruders and get attention for help. The cars face forward in the garage for an easy escape. I check social media searching for a distraction, only to be overwhelmed and enraged by all that is going on outside my bubble of fear. My parents rush around, in and out of the house, preparing for the long night ahead. There’s nothing I can do. Nothing can fully distract me or transport me to a different place. I am awaiting my own execution.
During the day it is all a lucid dream, something that can’t actually be happening, but as the sun sets it brings the dreaded darkness. The one place anyone can hide. My body is shaking and my stomach groans. I climb into my parent’s king-size bed and hide in the comforter that in my mind is bulletproof. My parents creep around all night in and out of doors, protecting us. My ears hone in as I try to eavesdrop on every conversation knowing my stomach can’t handle it. Desperate for a distraction, my sister and I watch a TV show. It starts to play and eventually draws my attention. I am still on edge, constantly aware of every creek and bang, as I keep track of when my dad leaves the house and when he comes back. Hours go by but sleep can’t pull me in, I won’t let it. I am afraid that closing my eyes is welcoming my death, that I won’t wake in time to scream. Hours go by and my adrenaline slowly winds down and sleep heavily lures me in. I try to fight it but the silence in my house and the warmth of the bed, wrap their arms around me and draw me in.
In my dreams, I am no longer trapped in the cage of my house. I am far away from the protests and riots. I am no longer searching for out-of-town license plates. I can’t hear the fireworks disguised as gunshots and gunshots disguised as fireworks. I am at peace, floating freely. I do not want to shed my skin because I can admire its beauty when not looking at it through the lens of others’ fear. Fear is powerful. It can cause so much pain, but it can also build so much strength. As fast as I run, I cannot escape it, my own fear, or that of others. It’s inevitable. I can let it swallow me whole or use it as strength, strength to grow and create change.
The sun peeking through the window wakes me up. My parent’s long night has exhausted them and they are eager to crash into their bed. Energy drinks fill the recycling bin, pillows and books sit on the couches as a reminder of their night. I am instantly yanked back to my reality and fear rings in the back of my head. I can’t sit still any longer. I move the pots and pans to grab paper and a pencil. I draw to remove my bulletproof covers and step into the unpredictable dark. I will take some power back from fear and use it to challenge itself. While I draw, serenity rushes through my body, calming me and I am no longer helplessly drowning in all this, hands shaking, heart pounding, mind racing, stomach wrenching fear.