I maintain a near constant fear of falling.
It’s difficult to determine why. It is an irrational concern, certainly. I have fallen before — at least once significantly — but I am not the type constantly bumping into doors and falling on my ass at parties — I am a steady, careful girl.
But not careful enough, I guess.
About a week before my Senior year began, I was at a party off-campus—with people too cool and uninterested in me—drinking heavily. I bounded outside with my two (and only) friends at the party, determined we would play football or something similarly asinine. I do not, nor would I ever imagine— while sober— that I had the hand-eye coordination to pass the ol’ pigskin around.
Apparently I lack the eye-foot coordination, as well.
As I stumbled out of the rickety house, I took one step down the three foot staircase and tipped, heavily, into the ground. It was one of those funny moments that stretches an instant too long and I knew it would be bad. Seconds do not go still when everything is fine.
I looked up at these friends, laughter all over their faces, and started screaming. They stopped smiling, sort of. They meant to take care of me, but they were intoxicated, and it was too funny a situation. I could have jumped off the porch and been completely fine, but because I had tried to walk down, I had suffered what I imagined a crippling injury.
They half-carried, half-dragged me the quarter-mile to my apartment. I awoke the next morning to a swollen ankle and a humiliating limp.
Although I healed (and rather quickly I might add), the fear remains.
Now living in Brooklyn, traversing icy paths and frantic cabs, I have grown more afraid. I stumble and skid in the snow, bracing myself sharply in anticipation of an inevitable impact. I have had a few bad slips —once I tripped down wet stairs with bags of groceries that promptly split on the pavement and nearly made me cry - but by and large, my fears have not been justified.
Time has also intensified a different, tangential anxiety. One could argue the two are intimately related, if not married.
I endure the fear at least twice a day, a paranoia sharply focused during a ten-minute span.
As I wait for the subway to arrive, hands in pockets, peering around neighbors to look down the tunnel, I become convinced I will fall onto the tracks.
I remember reading, once, about how some people feel the instinct to jump when they are at great heights. My obsessive concern is comparable, sure, but while those people feel an impulse to jump—I am desperately afraid to fall.
I picture how it will happen— in great detail. It is, oddly, the only thing that calms me down.
I will be bumped from behind, by some lady in a hurry, or a young guy with a backpack, or the anonymous shove of the group transferring from another train. My knees will buckle and I will fall onto the tracks, hands first, into the mess of single shot bottles, and one-way metro tickets, and the odd shoebox.
As my knees split open against the rails my head will pitch forward, catch my smile on the rusted steel, and shatter my teeth.
What I fear most—more than the pain of this impact— is the following moment:
I turn to implore the crowd of people on the edge of the tracks - studiously distanced - and no one responds. They watch me coldly, then look towards the oncoming train with relief. My humiliation breaks me first. By the time the train strikes I am already gone.
I do not know how to get rid of this fear nor do I think that I can.
Lily Sloss is a writer. She loves dancing, Michael, and her new home in Brooklyn. She's currently working as a Social Media Manager for 2 Cents Collective, a crowd-sourced advice project, and The Offliners, an indie film coming out in 2015. Follow her on Twitter | @lil_Sloss