Last night was an evening of overcoming fear
s and good music. After dancing wildly and experiencing general feelings of joy at a concert given by Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire
my friend and I decided that a jaunt across the Brooklyn Bridge
was in order. A measly few blocks later brought us to the pedestrian
entrance to one of the most easily recognizable of New York
's many great landmarks. Straight ahead, my eyes could follow a path of lights straight up to the sky.
Before I go any further I feel the need to explain my fear of immensity. I used to term it as a fear of heights, but last night changed my mind. Whenever I am confronted with a space far larger than I, such as a multi-level open mall, or the room in the Museum of Natural History decorated with huge marine creatures hanging from the ceiling, I am overtaken with a horrible anxiety. This usually manages to reduce me to a quivering mass, seeking escape in any form possible. Last night was no different.
Entering the wooden pedestrian path onto the bridge, I had no idea that this fear would seize me. About halfway to the first large pillar the old feelings started to arise. My pace began to slow. There was no safe place to look. Upward only meant a disconcerting view of ropes, that were surely most unsteady, leading into blackness. Looking down only presented me with a boardwalk, which was surely old and rotten, narrowly preventing me from falling to certain death beneath the wheels of a speeding car. My friend was of no help, talking about the age of the bridge and flailing his arms about when all I needed was a stable frame of reference to still my spinning head. Every move he made just reassured me as to the inevitable immanence of my death. I wanted to go back. This was no fear of heights; it was a fear of scale. I was afraid because I was one small human confronted with something far larger than myself. But ahead was the pillar, and I had a plan for changing my ill fortune.
I sat down.
Leaning back against the stone pillar, I slowed my breathing, concentrating solely on remaining in the moment. Gazing over the lights of the city, my anxiety began to subside. Where before I saw nothing but the promise of doom I was now presented with life, layered in a startling parallax for my eyes only. To the right I could see the unlit Manhattan Bridge speckled, on the upper level, with cars, and carrying a fragmented fluorescent snake on the lower. Over the left side of the bridge was the tiny red orb of Mars protecting the distant Statue of Liberty and a dark blob called Governor's Island. At last, I could see what my friend had been enjoying the entire night. Nothing to be afraid of there. But I also knew that the true test had not yet been taken. When I was able to look up, straight through the latticework of cords and wires suspending this wonderful thing together without a trace of my previous fear, I knew I was cured. Everything that had been problematic before did not matter anymore. Size was an illusion based solely on my anxiety-skewed perception. Viewed calmly, the enormity of the bridge and the city beyond were irrelevant because I was now a part of them.
The rest of the walk passed uneventfully. Finally at peace with my surroundings, I leapt about the boardwalk freely. We sang songs of pure spontaneity, and our harmonies were perfection. A short while later, it was all over. Maybe now that I have written this all down I can finally sleep.