I don’t know if the first of my columns for This Is Horror will be quite what Michael Wilson had in mind. I know he was looking forward to some left-wing and anti-theistic rants from me. (Apparently I’ve got a reputation for them; can’t think how that happened.)
And there will be some of those in future, I’m sure; politics and religion give me plenty of fears to play with, and what else does a writer of horror (if I am still one) trade in? But not this week. This week, I’ve other topics on my mind; this week, I’ve found new, other things to scare me.
So, here’s the thing.
I’m in love.
I’ve been single for quite a long time- over ten years, all told. Various reasons, but I’d largely got used to it. Hadn’t written off the prospect of romance, but… I wasn’t holding out for it, either. It could pass me by or not.
And now… wow. She’s another writer (so she understands that particular brand of madness) and… well, I’m crazy about her and it seems to be mutual. Inevitably, therefore, I’m probably going to be about as much fun to be around as a train wreck for the foreseeable future. Sorry about that.
But there’s something else.
A friend of mine told me that before he became a father, nothing scared him; now, everything does. I get that; it’s one thing to reach the point where you can deal with the prospect of your own death. We all have to face it and in one way or another come to terms with it, and learn to take calculated risks. But a child is a hostage to fortune; not you but a part of you- one whose safety may be even more precious than your own- and still vulnerable to an almost infinite array of dangers.
While I don’t have any children, I’m not someone with a vast number of prior relationships in my back pocket (I seem to average about one per decade). The advantage of this is that everything’s still new and shiny; the downside is that it’s terra incognita. I’m not young and naïve enough to believe that love will conquer all anymore, but I’m not a battle-scarred veteran either, wise to all the traps and pitfalls that threaten to claim the unwary.
What if I can’t love her as much as she loves me, become unable to reciprocate her passion? Or vice versa, leaving me watching her dwindle away, growing cold and remote? And of course there’s the fear of fucking it up- saying the wrong thing, hurting or being hurt, blowing it all through some error of judgement.
Then there’s the fear I won’t know when to compromise, or when to stop. I’ve been in the second kind of relationship, letting my then partner twist me all out of shape, trying to conform to her idea of who I should be; will that happen again because I can’t stop myself? Or will I go too far the other way and refuse to compromise in the smallest things, driving her away?
And then there’s the fear of living together, if and when that comes; weekends and stolen evenings are one thing, but what happens when it becomes day in, day out? Will endearing little tics become unbearable? Will irreconcilable differences show themselves? And what if they do? I have the fragile stability of a small income and a house of my own; what happens when a long-term relationship crashes and burns? The spectres of penury and homelessness shimmer into view.
And then there could be children, and all the new questions they bring- and that’s assuming we don’t suddenly find ourselves confronted by an unplanned pregnancy and all its attendant choices and dilemmas…
First world problems, I know. In sub-Saharan Africa there are millions who’d love these to be the worst of their worries. And you’re probably thinking, quite justifiably, what a miserable bastard I must be- the ultimate ‘glass half-empty’ man. But you’d be wrong.
Someone new comes into your life, and it’s like a door opening, on a room you didn’t even know was there before. And yes, it’s full of sunlight and it’s full of things you want to see and touch. But there are new fears there, too.
Happy? Of course I’m happy. I don’t think I could be happier (a three book deal with a major publisher would test that theory, of course) but hovering round the edges of the joy and excitement, there’s always the fear, as some part of me, wary and twice-shy, sniffs around the room in search of all the things that could go wrong. Maybe it’s a survival mechanism of some kind, anticipating potential danger; maybe it’s the natural nervousness that follows years of solitude. And maybe it’s the same part of me that makes me write horror; the part that looks at every source of happiness to see, in embryo, the potential for catastrophe.
But there’s a difference between what might be and what is. Worrying about the future is a great way to avoid living in the moment; and when you’re in love, that’s the best place to live. So I’ll just have to get used to that new room full of fears; there are other things in there too, and I want to know them better.
I should probably add that I gave my girlfriend this column to read before sending it in. According to her, I worry too much. Guess it’s official, then.
That’s me done for this month, anyway. Sorry about all that. Come back next time and there’ll be lefty and anti-theistic rants a-plenty. Promise.
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