My biggest fear

Fear. It can be crippling. It can also change as we age. What’s your biggest fear right now at this moment? Will you have the same answer tomorrow?

When I was little, my biggest fear was abandonment. After my father passed away, my mother remarried the man who would end up raising me and shaping my life in ways I didn’t know were possible at the time. I was only four, which is how old my daughter is now. I didn’t understand everything that had happened. I just had a fuzzy memory of my mother holding me over the side of my father’s hospital bed and telling me to say goodbye. I hadn’t said anything; I’d just waved. Waving instead of speaking is something my daughter does sometimes when she’s apprehensive about something. She’s afraid of the dark and worries when she thinks I am mad at her.

Not long after my mother and stepfather got married, I began having a recurring nightmare. I think I was about six when it began and it happened several times during the next few years. I dreamt about having to go hunting with my stepfather, just the two of us. In the dream, he made me stand under the water in a creek so that he could stand on my shoulders and look for deer through his binoculars. When I couldn’t hold my breath any longer, I pushed him off my shoulders, and he fell into the water and hit his head on the rocks. He wouldn’t wake up. At that point, I would always wake up crying. Pretty twisted for a kid’s dream, huh?

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Truths Left Unspoken

“Truths Left Unspoken”, Rhythmic Poetry, 9-27-16

Many secrets lead me astray.
Why do I want to run away?

I have all I’ve ever wanted.
So what’s missing? I’m still haunted.

Hidden by truths left unspoken,
There is part of me that’s broken.

Be content with medication
Or a much-needed vacation.

When there is too much stress to face,
I want to leave this unsafe place.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

September 11, 2001

I can’t believe it’s been 15 years when the tragedy still feels like yesterday sometimes. September 11 has become the “Where were you?” story for a lot of people in my generation the way the assassination of JFK or the explosion of The Challenger became for other generations.

I was in my junior year in college and among the last group of people to know what had happened that morning. I didn’t watch any TV or listen to the radio that morning as I got up and went to class. That wasn’t unusual for me. Classes were held like normal and a few people mentioned to the professors that classes should be cancelled due to the events of the morning, but no one actually said what happened. I didn’t have a clue nor did I ask anyone. I just assumed it was something trivial.

Later in the afternoon, I ran into a friend close to my apartment who asked me how I was feeling about what happened. When I said I didn’t know what she was talking about, she said, “Girl, you need to go turn on the TV.” When I asked what station and she said it didn’t matter. We went into my apartment together where I was horrified by the footage I saw and the estimated deaths by that point in the afternoon. I believe it was around 1 p.m.

I was finished with my classes for the day, so I sat and picked at my lunch while watching the footage with my friend and later my roommate who came in. I quickly ran to to a computer lab to send an email to a friend who was overseas and then had to get ready for work at JC Penney by 4 p.m. That night at work was different from any other night. All of us young college students who worked there stood at the front registers and talked all night. The two or three customers who came in were not exactly welcomed by us. All of us would rather have had the store closed for the night and couldn’t believe that anyone would be shopping on a night like that. In hindsight, I am no longer judgmental about those people who shopped. Some people need a distraction, such as shopping, from such terrible things.

I didn’t write in my journal on the day of or the day after the events because I was engrossed in the footage and discussions about the terrorist attacks. I found what I wrote on September 13, 2001. I redacted some names and edited a couple of offensive words. See below for the ramblings of my selfish 20-year-old self about the events of 9/11.

Excerpt from Journal entry from September 13, 2001

Okay, so two days ago these f###ing terrorists hijacked some planes and crashed them. The World Trade Center in New York is gone. The Pentagon was partially destroyed. It’s crazy. Everyone freaked out, almost ran the stations out of gas in anticipation of war. I’m scared, and thankful (name redacted) wasn’t on a plane that day. I wrote to (pronoun), ending it with: Please, (name redacted) write me back, I’m scared*.

I feel so bad for all the people who lost someone in the crashes. There’s nothing I can do. I have a great blood type to donate, O+, but there’s a 110-pound requirement. I’ve been a steady 98 pounds for six months now.

I talked to (name redacted) on MSN tonight. I sent (pronoun) my newest short story draft. (name redacted) said “Too Much” was really sad. I guess it is. I was reading it aloud to myself tonight (proofreading), feeling pretty lousy. Then it’s like someone spoke to me because “Higher” played on MTV**. It has been more than a year and a half since I’ve seen that video. Out of all the videos to show at that moment. I burst into tears and whispered “Thank you” to the man upstairs. Sometimes my faith is tested a bit. It’s little things like hearing that song that give me more hope. It may sound stupid, but I’ve got to have hope.

This is awful. I can’t stand it much longer. I need to stop writing because I am so disappointed with all this s##t. –Brandi

* (Name redacted) wrote me back to confirm (pronoun) safety

**At the time of the evening when I wrote the journal entry, MTV was the only station not playing 9/11 footage. I couldn’t watch anymore because I felt like I had seen enough. The whole thing was depressing. The song “Higher” by Creed had significance to me at the time. I felt like the world needed more love and a lot less hate after the events of 9/11.

-Brandi Easterling Collins