Suddenly You’re Afraid; or, The Mean Reds
I want to claim the term
as my own
to help explain
why I’m so damn afraid.
I can make a list of my fears
escalators and elevators;
the future and the past
and going to sleep
and waking up
and breaking out
of a daydream;
stolen words and
being left alone
It’s easier when I think
about it all as one
ambiguous fear of
everything and nothing,
by my own racing heart.
I can’t hail a cab,
so I count my breath, tap my fingers
to steady the
to make believe
that I’m at Tiffany’s
until enough time passes that I can breathe
and I know I’ve passed through
I once listened to a song about empathy,
about caring for those who need it,
and I wondered if it was all a lie because,
from where I stood in that moment,
to use their hands for caring.
But, knowing you,
I know it’s true
and I can listen to that song
because I’ve seen it,
in your eyes,
in your face,
in the way
you make sure I’m okay
before leaving the room,
and the way you stop
to show me something you know
will make me smile,
and how your hands
are like your eyes
and your mouth
in that they’re caring.
I was nine years old when my parents got married
and I wanted to give them something,
especially Mom, who’d done so much for me;
despite having no resources, being nine.
One thing I knew, despite being nine,
was that my mom loved Guns N’ Roses more than I did
and I heard the DJ would take requests,
which I assumed could include our favourite band.
But “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was our song.
I had the blue sky eyes in a cloud of rain,
hid away at the first lighting strike.
So there wasn’t a chance
and I was too shy to ask,
so I slipped him a note on a napkin
to request the only wedding song I knew they had:
And the DJ played “November Rain.”
At 21, I was older, wiser,
and didn’t yet have student loan bills,
so I had something resembling the resources
I didn’t have at nine.
And when GNR came our way, I picked up
the tickets for Mom that Mother’s Day.
And when we made it there,
it was shock,
surprised that Slash’s arms still looked so good,
impressed that Axl still sounded so good.
And when our song finally played,
there was a different kind of pain,
an emotional tug at metaphorical heartstrings.
I cried more than I did on the day they were married,
brought to that special place
when I stared too long at the stage.
When I turned to look at Mom,
I know that she, too,
felt the rain.
“Caring Hands” and “Sweet Child” are both intended for inclusion in Juliette’s forthcoming book, Centre Stage, while “Suddenly You’re Afraid; of, The Mean Reds” is part of a manuscript in its earliest stages.
Juliette Sebock is the author of Mistakes Were Made and has work forthcoming or appearing in a wide variety of publications. She is the founding editor of Nightingale & Sparrow, runs a lifestyle blog, For the Sake of Good Taste, and is a regular contributor with Marías at Sampaguitas and Royal Rose. Currently, she is curating the Screaming from the Silence anthology series and working on a variety of personal and freelance projects. When she isn’t writing (and sometimes when she is), she can be found with a cup of coffee and her cat, Fitz. Juliette can be reached on her website or across social media.