My Deepest Fears

There are only three things in this world that I’m truly afraid of: sharks, dolls that come to life in the middle of the night, and dying alone.

The first two I blame on a childhood spent consuming American media. I was four when Jaws came out. And while my parents certainly didn’t take me to see it, for some incomprehensible reason, they had a copy of the “literary adaptation” with a cover that matched the movie poster: A naked girl swimming in the open ocean, oblivious to the monster charging up from the depths beneath her. I would sneak up to their bookshelf and peek at the image, then run to my room to hide from it.

Then there was Poltergeist. I remember renting not just the tape, but the entire mini-fridge-sized machine you needed to watch it, because nobody actually owned a VCR back then. This movie ruined clown dolls for me forever. (Not that they’d ever held much appeal in the first place. But still.)

My third fear came to life much later. And it crashes over me like a rogue wave every time I visit my grandmother in her nursing home. She’s one of the lucky ones in the facility. My mother lives close and visits her with admirable regularity. But the others? I see them lying alone in their separate rooms, nodding in and out of consciousness, TVs blaring, with photos of families who’ve forgotten them taped to their doors. I try to make eye contact with each person I pass. I say hello. I smile. And I wonder whether or not I could subsist on the fleeting kindness of strangers in my final days. Will that be all I have in the end? How can anyone know for sure?

This thought terrifies me more than all the sharks in the ocean and all the evil dolls that hide in my closet, despite my obsessive double-checking.

Photo credit: Folkert Gorter, Superfamous Studios

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