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  • Writer's pictureSam Palmer

What Are You So Afraid Of

I settled onto my favorite wooden bench in the park. It was tucked away and secluded but still offered a good view of the knoll. Retrieving the crumpled handkerchief from my pocket, I dabbed at my nose then returned it to its place and began unfolding my ham sandwich from its wax paper. My teeth sank into the soft bread and I chewed slowly as I sat in quiet watching the other patrons in the park.

Sandwich poised at my lips my eyes darted to the right as a jogger passed me. What a beautiful body, I noted, taking another bite. I should really start exercising more. I pictured myself running alongside the jogger. Our strides perfectly in sync, long and strong. Seeing big white clouds of our breath as we wove our way through the paths of the park. My ponytail swaying, the sound of his shoes against the damp pavement, our foreheads glistening with well earned sweat. Me choking him, watching the life leave his eyes and then abandoning his body somewhere off the path. Perhaps hidden behind a bush. I sighed and relaxed my hands still holding my sandwich in my lap as I chewed another dry mouthful of ham, cheese, and bread.

It was gray and chilly outside with a thick foggy haze but I could still make out the couple walking over the grassy hill. A family throwing a ball for their happy golden and a man with a food cart selling hot coffee. I paused my chewing to take a slow breath in through my nose trying to smell the fresh coffee. Ah, there it was. Nutty, and robust. Slightly burned, which didn't bother me. I used to day dream of opening up a coffee shop. I bet that cart is a lot easier. And no overhead! That was a good point. I wonder how much it would cost to start something like that? I looked down at my lap, gingerly picking up the second half of my sandwich. I pictured me pushing a shiny red cart with big white letter's painted on the side "Helen's Coffee". I would have my regulars who would greet me with big smiles and pleasantries. 'Hello, Helen!', 'Give me the usual, Helen.', 'How're you, Helen?'.

I smiled softly as I crumpled the empty wax paper in my hands. Picturing me smiling and waving to my customers. The rich smell of coffee all around, me pulling out a foam cup and pushing down on the dispenser, watching the muddy hot liquid come pouring out. They'd wrap their hands around the cup for warmth, closing their eyes and taking a deep whiff before finally putting their mouth to the edge and taking a slow drink. 'Ahhhhhhh. That's good, Helen.' They'd never even taste the cyanide. I'd beam and wish them well before they collapse onto the sidewalk, convulsing and shaking. Spitting up blood and vomit before passing out and dying slowly.

"Mind if I sit down?"

I jumped out of both my skin and my daydream, looking up to see the plump face of a middle aged woman smiling down at me. I gathered my bag and stood, wiping the crumbs from my coat, and without even looking up I blurted "I was just leaving anyway." I began walking away, knowing behind me she would be standing there looking confused by my coldness. I was confused by it too. I hadn't meant to sound so annoyed or leave in such an unusually haste way. She was just being kind. I know. I rolled my eyes at myself, my perfect afternoon ruined. I could hear my mother now 'you NEED to make friends! It's not normal being your age and always alone, Helen.' I know, Mom. 'Well, what are you so afraid of?' I shook my head at myself. I knew the truth but it never got any easier to say it. Even if nobody could hear me.

Well? my inner voice persisted. What are you so afraid of?

I clenched my fists, and felt the word come hot and breathy over my dry lips. "You."

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