Fear Tells Us Nothing

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Phobia, Shmobia.”

In 1977 a man I now suspect was “the great love of my life (glml)” sat across from me at my dinner table and said, “What are you afraid of? File the papers. The guy’s an asshole. Fear tells us nothing.”

He was talking about my husband whom I needed to divorce. I was afraid. I was afraid for a lot of reasons but probably on top of the list was the fact that my husband had abused me numerous times and I was afraid of him. Those times seemed to be over, if for no other reason than he didn’t live with me any more. He’d gotten a scholarship for grad school and had moved to Wyoming six months earlier while I went to grad school in Denver. He’d given me a choice, “Either you drop out of school and go with me, or I go without you.” Not much of a choice.

I was also afraid of the feelings I had for Peter, the “glml”. He was gay. Strangely, though, my love was requited and Peter wanted the “hubby” out of the way.

The next day I drove up to Boulder to see an old friend and lover, Allan. We spent the day and the night together. The next day he was leaving for Berkeley where he’d gotten a grant for a doctoral program. He had an MA in philosophy from the University of Colorado. I got a letter from him soon after and that was the last I heard of him. He was a remarkable man and we both viewed my sudden appearance at his house in Boulder that last day of his Colorado life as a rite of passage for both of us.

That Monday I filed the papers and took them to “the hubby” who didn’t resist. Anyone could tell that when two people didn’t get along and no longer lived together, their marriage was probably over.

Peter, the glml, was wrong, though. Fear is very informative. If you hear a rattlesnake buzz, you will feel afraid. I should have felt afraid of the “hubby” but I never did.

After the divorce, involved in a relationship with the glml, I started reading Hemingway. Courage is a big topic with him and after several books and reading his collected letters, I saw what courage is (according to Hemingway). It is not the absence of fear; courage is unnecessary if one is not afraid. Courage — in Hemingway’s language — is grace under pressure. It’s moving away from the snake without killing it. If I’d been afraid of the “hubby,” I wouldn’t have stayed with him as long as I did.

Not long ago, I thought of Allan and “googled” him. What I learned astonished me. He got his doctorate in social work, not philosophy. He spent his life helping and setting up social justice organizations that rescued, cared for and rehabilitated battered women. I don’t know if a long, long ago night – 1974 – when I drove to his house bruised, crying and terrified had anything to do with what he chose to give his life to, but if it did, then all that pain, fear and humiliation I experienced with the “hubby” was worth it.

5 thoughts on “Fear Tells Us Nothing

  1. There is no doubt at all about Allan’s intent as to his future work. Your story and mine sound somewhat similar (in love with someone else while working my way out of a marriage to an abusive cad). Courage, I think, is about survival, that “grace under pressure” as you’ve put it. We did what we had to do, even if that required us to stay put.

    • I was truly not very bright and not good at taking care of myself. I didn’t know why, so it was a long while before I stopped thinking being hurt was being loved. I’m glad that I had the chance to help various of my girl students over the years. That’s one good thing to come of it.

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