(Originally published in 2000, but I've lost track of who published it.)
When I was a young boy, living in Buffalo, NY, a late-night storm ripped the window right out of my bedroom wall. I was directly underneath the window at the time.
Sitting through last October’s Hurricane Floyd, I couldn’t help but remember that night from so many years ago. I was in bed, the only one awake in the house, listening to the wind whistle through my window, and shivering in the cold. Finally, trying to get warm, I lifted my legs up to my chest, and put my arms around my knees. As my hands touched, the window above my bed exploded inward. Glass shattered and flew through the air, and the heavy wooden frame of the window smashed down onto the mattress where my legs had been just a second before.
The window frame probably weighed as much as I did, if not more. It hit the mattress, sending me bouncing back up into the air. I really don’t know how I managed to stay on the bed when I landed. All I do remember is staring down at the floor from the edge of the mattress, at a thousand shards of glass winking back up at me, and feeling too detached from the entire event to realize that I should have been terrified.
Meanwhile, the storm made itself at home in my bedroom. Sheets of rain poured in through the ruined window, and an angry wind whipped through the room and slammed my bedroom door shut.
It was an old house. The door was warped. I had never been able to shut it on my own.
The wind actually closed that door. And also managed to lock it.
I’m going to go on the record and say that I’m pretty sure that I never screamed. The slamming door woke my parents, and my father was able to unlock the door from the other side with a screwdriver. It seemed like it took him forever. Finally, he opened the door, put on some thick shoes, and walked in to carry me back out.
I’m writing this the day after Floyd hit New Jersey. Last night, I sat in my living room, in another old house, with the wind whistling through the windows, and the old wood rattling in the rain. Twenty-some-odd years ago, I should have been terrified. Last night, I finally was.
And I sat there for three hours anyway, the lights turned up high, my legs wrapped in a comforter, and a book in my hands. I didn’t want to be there, but at the same time, it was the best seat in the house. I was warm, I was reading a good book, and even though the windows made me very, very nervous, I was safe.
There’s no shame in being afraid to die, only in being afraid to live.
What scared you today? Go write about it. Live a little.