Tonight, before leaving the house to go out to dinner with my friend, I threw on my green skirt and a white t-shirt that I’d forgotten about. It has a feather drawn on it, a huge feather drawn in ink down the middle of it. It’s beautiful and simple and it was a gift to find it again tonight.
Since I was robbed in March last year, on my street, I have been afraid—-almost paralyzingly so—-of going outside alone at night. I’ve turned down invitations to join friends at bars simply because I knew it meant I would need to walk on my street by myself at some point, where I would almost certainly meet my death. When walking home from my friend’s house at night, just one block over from my own, my stomach has knotted itself so tightly it’s taken hours to unwind. I’ve left parties early, spent money on cabs, asked for rides from strangers, just so I could avoid being on my street at night by myself.
Tonight, however, when I left my apartment in my white feather t-shirt to meet my friend at the top of the hill as we normally do, I glanced to my right across the street. There, sitting on a stone wall, was a man. He was rocking back and forth, holding something in his arms that could have been a child, though I didn’t look long enough to see for sure. My first instinct was to smile at him. And this is where it struck me as odd: a month ago, three months ago, I would have felt my stomach tighten, my pulse quicken, and my palms sweat. This time, I met this strange face with a smile. What happened? Later, after dinner, I walked along the stretch of road that consistently makes me nervous. And yet there I was, alone on the street, meeting faces on the street I’d never seen before, ones that would have made me cringe earlier because of the fear they represented. But not tonight: tonight I simply walked.
The way I see it, I’m just tired of being afraid. Why maintain a fear simply maintain it? True, the moment I release my fear it’s bound to pop up again; I think we learn lessons this way. But tonight I felt the weight of my fear because I realized it wasn’t there anymore. I felt a lightness like a feather that’s been missing for a long time. I feel that way about a lot of things I’ve been missing these days.
This lightness comes at a good time. Tomorrow night I leave for a dream vacation to Salvador, Bahia, with my good friend Jay who’s being an amazing human being and coming down to visit me from the States. He flies into Rio and arrives on Sunday morning and I am taking an overnight bus up to meet him tomorrow night. From Rio we fly to Bahia and then pick up a catamaran to an island called Morro de Sao Paulo.
Thus, I begin my vacation. I think I will bring this t-shirt with me, a reminder of the lightness and the happiness I felt tonight.