Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lost and Afraid

Mazeophobia is the fear of getting lost. When I was young, I hated getting lost. There was something about being in unfamiliar territory. I despised the body's mechanism for advertising my stress. I'd wipe my sweaty palms off my jeans, all the while searching my surroundings, wide eyed. It wasn't long before probing eyes would glare in my direction, probably wondering what was wrong. Of course, I took the penetrating stares to be an invasion of my person. An attempt by aliens to abduct me and take me to an even stranger place. Then there was the fear that instead of concerned humans encircling me to lend a helping hand, that they'd be something monstrous like witches, vampires and werewolves. I'd heard the stories about children who'd go missing after getting lost. I was determined that wouldn't happen to me. No way I was going to let some monster eat me and wipe me off the face of the earth.

Some years later, I recall being in a car with someone that still had Mazeophobia. Of course, the fact that I seemed in control didn't mean I was cured; better perhaps, but not cured. Anyway, we wandered off from the desired destination and because of my refusal to ask for directions, I am a man after all, she had a fit. Curses spewed my way, loud shouts of nonsense words I automatically tuned out. I wanted to shut her up. Violent thoughts entered my mind, briefly, but then I recalled my childhood and my fear of getting lost. When the woman realized I was calmer than ever, she stopped screaming and asked, "You know where we are? You must know because you're so calm." I nodded, "Of course I know where I am." With raised eyebrows she asked, "Where are we?" I struggled to fight off a grin. Looking straight ahead at uncharted territory, I no longer saw the dangers of getting lost. I no longer worried about the boogie men who waited outside of my safe car for me to step out and become a victim; another statistic of a lost soul disappearing into an abyss of evil. I loosened my grip on the steering wheel, tilted my head towards the frightened lunatic and in a calm, soft voice said, "I know exactly where we are. We're in my car."

I expected her to attack with a barrage of punches, but instead she sat quietly, staring at the dashboard. I broke her trance with the most confident voice I could muster, "I'll find the place. I promise."

Through clenched teeth she said, "If you don't ask someone for directions, I swear I'll kill you, leave your body here in this Godforsaken place and I'll tell everyone you went missing because you got out to pee and got lost. The authorities will believe me, cause I'm a woman." Her eyes bulged from their sockets. I swear I saw a vein pulsating on the side of her head.

I spotted an elderly gentleman, lowered the window, bit the bullet, and asked him for directions. The old man threw us off further from our intended destination. Before the woman could get another panic attack, I calmly said, "I will find the place because the force is with me."

Experience has shown me that the world really is a small place.

Nomar Knight

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