SMOKE: Fears And Phobias
Originally published: 12 February 2003
I'm not a very fearful person, but I have been, believe me.
I've been through every fearful situation imaginable, from facing death at the point of a knife to warding off homosexuals in gut-wrenching police cells to being stoned by a crowd of Islam extremists to being hurled down the stairs of nighclubs.
I've plunged off a flyover bridge onto a highway below, I've been attacked by Mastiffs From Hell, I've had my head opened by bottles, pool cues and hobnail boots, and I've visited some of the darkest, filthiest, most evil hovels on Earth.
Which is not to say I don't have fear - most of my life was operated with one nostril above The Fear, and only time and understanding have helped me marginalise it.
It all stems from childhood, when I first became aware that I was afraid of people. I was a nervous child with a sensitive disposition and with violin in hand I presented a natural target for bullies and Catholic Brothers alike.
I didn't have any true friends and turned instead to my younger brothers and sisters who were the only ones I could trust.
I developed a culture of Hiding - whenever someone came to the door I would head in the opposite direction, always listening but never allowing myself to be seen.
This habit has stayed with me right through to the present day and despite owning my own house I still won't answer the door if I have no prior knowledge of a visit. I can't stand being surprised, so my gate stays locked and only someone with a prior appointment can get in.
A result of Hiding means my house has become my castle in a very real sense of the word - I don't mind people coming over, but I have to know they're coming.
Nelson Mandela can rock up at my gate with a sack full of money, an honorary doctorate and a bag of sweetest Swazi, but if he ain't called he ain't getting in. Sorry, Madge. Next time call first. Love your work.
This same affliction of Hiding means I prefer the darker corners of establishments and the poorer the lighting the better.
In my student days I came out a bit, usually the result of the opening of the doors of perception and related inebriation techniques, and would muck in to Nellie The Elephant with some of the finest, most professional headbangers I have ever had the privilege to be knocked unconscious by.
But I have of late - and wherefore I know not - lost all my mirth, by which I mean I am perfectly happy to staple my legs to a table at the back and watch all the fine ass instead.
But these days I don't fear people - I fear engaging people, which is why I spend my day writing instead. I'm perfectly happy to be on a stage in front of hundreds, but to chat to one on the phone brings out an unreasonable fear that I always have to overcome.
I also have a very unreasonable fear of spiders, to the point that I can't look at them. I bought The Lion King for my old Sega TV games console, but couldn't go past the sixth level as it contained animated spiders. I couldn't even look at the animations.
I have a very weird phobia that only strikes in bed - I can't bear to touch my dog (who sleeps at my wife's feet, at the bottom of the bed) with my leg. It repulses me.
I can kiss her and hug her and touch her all day, but I absolutely freak if I accidentally brush her warm, faintly perspiring, dark, Satanic, evil little body in bed at night.
But my biggest fear of all is of death. I don't want to die and I never have wanted to, and the damndest thing is there's nothing I can do about it. Kind of like the sky falling on your head, as popularised by Messrs. Goscinny and Uderzo in their Asterix comics.
I don't want to die because I haven't done enough. I haven't proved to myself that I can achieve the dreams I carry with me like an ever-weightier sack. I haven't made a million. I haven't seen the great cities, I haven't learned enough languages. I haven't raced a car specifically designed to do so, and I haven't driven a rally. I haven't seen enough, heard enough, learned enough, or experienced enough, and until I have I'm not ready to die.
Which puts my weighed-down lungs, my hovering brain tumour, my impending deep-vein thrombosis and my suspected ulcer clearly into perspective.
Time to get out.
All Smoked Out,