Category Archives: Fears

Fresh air.

I was born in the beginning of October, which means that I’m a Libra. Libras fall under the heading of “air sign.”

I don’t know much. But I know that.

*****

It’s 4:30 in the afternoon, and I’m lying in bed, fighting my carpal tunnel and/or arthritis in order to type. It hurts to grip a pencil and to open a bottle of medicine and to reach for my kids. But that’s what I’ve been dealing with the past few weeks.

The nannies have been on vacation because I expected to be in NYC by now and I didn’t want to rearrange their plans just because we’re not abroad. My brother’s been a big help just by looking after the boys for 30 minutes each day so that I can shower—but that’s all the help I’m getting. It’s just me, a 34-month old, and a 10-month old. I clean the five-bedroom house we live in, cook three square meals a day, and take care of the kids. It’s not easy, but it’s gratifying. I’m beyond proud to be able to say that I’ve gotten control of this domestic life within a couple of weeks.

School-wise, I’m at a stand-still. I decided months back that I would take a year off. I was supposed to take the kids back to NYC asap because Rob’s mom has stage four cancer and would like to see her grandsons before she dies. Only thing is, we’ve hit a lot of snags. Problems with paperwork and red tape. Drama that would make your head spin if I got into it.

I don’t know what the future has in store, if we’ll end up going or not. Right now though, my plans don’t include going home any time soon. I want to get my dual citizenship taken care of asap so that I can work at a call center and save money. Due to my grandma’s death, Rob’s car accident, Riley’s hospitalization, and other factors, finances are beyond tight right now; I’ve decided that I’m going to pay for my tuition from here on out.

Not Rob. Not my parents. Not Rob’s parents. Me. No loans or borrowing or credit cards. I’m going to pay for the rest of my nursing school education out of pocket. I’m going to pay for my own tuition, and all of the expenses that go with it.

Also: I’m going to pay for Riley to go to daycare, and for clothes for the kids, and for a life that’s closer to the one that I want. I’m frustrated at my circumstances and need to feel in control of something.

I need to feel like I’m getting a kick-ass nursing education, and that I’m good at what I do. I need to feel like I’m an amazing mother, and honestly, only now, after being a stay-at-home-mom do I feel that I can claim that title. I need to feel that I’m in a relationship that works. I need to regain faith in myself and the future; I keep on fumbling the former and I’m afraid I’ve permanently lost the latter.

I’m angry at Rob for being so goddamn hard to communicate with.

I’m anxious about my health because I haven’t fixed any of my problems, haven’t gotten my skin biopsy or cervical biopsy, and haven’t taken thyroid meds or consulted specialists or gotten answers.

I’m sad because of all the death that’s been surrounding me, and because of my parents’ shortcomings and how they affect me and my own family.

I’m tired of making lemons into lemonade. I think I’m just going to suck on some lemons and see where it takes me. I can’t deal with pretending to be happy all the time just for the sake of other peoples’ comfort.

I am learning to be brief and concise. I am learning to be ambiguous, and to not share as much of my life as I would have done before. I am learning to keep to myself, to let the internal workings do their thing, and to trust whatever is in me.

Point blank: I’m not in an easy place. It’s not a bad place, per se. It’s just terribly difficult. My plate is full of worry and anxiety and frustration. I want to get to the next stage, to a place where I already have my BSN and at least one finished manuscript that I’m damn proud of. I want to kill my board exam and pass the NCLEX with flying colors. I want to add on to my family and move back to NYC and feel… different. I want life to be easier and fun and happy.

Because this? This lack of money, lack of power, lack of control? This overthinking that I do? These expectations for myself and for others that I have? They’re too much. It’s all just too much for me right now. And the more I try to fix things and realize that I just muck up the gears, the more frustrated and angry I get.

I need a break from everything that is unnecessary. I need to strip away the stuff I don’t need and get to the bare essentials.

I’m working Maslow’s hierarchy, one level at a time.

I’m climbing it, trying to get to self-actualization.

And taking as many deep breaths as I can on the way up.

Safety.

When I was pregnant with Riley, we had a baby shower. At that baby shower, one of my best friends said to Rob, “Okay, so you and Maria are having a baby. You really have to take care of her now.”

Rob’s response?

“No, I won’t take care of her. She won’t let me.”

My back had been turned and I’d unintentionally eavesdropped on the conversation, but the moment I heard his answer, my blood ran cold. I didn’t know what it was that made me so upset; I just knew that that little exchange had unearthed something very profound.

Fast-forward a year later. Rob was living in the Philippines with me and Riley. I brought up that conversation, and I told Rob how upset it had made me. Still, I had no idea why it made me upset. I had a vague notion that Rob’s answer wasn’t the right one, but I wasn’t certain why it wasn’t the right answer. Would I have wanted him to nod solemnly and pledge his life to taking care of me? No, not in the slightest. So what was it?

“Love,” Rob said to me. “The only reason I said that is because you’re independent. You take care of yourself. I know you don’t really need me, and that’s what I love about you.”

It sounded aiight. I mean, the words coming out of his mouth weren’t necessarily offensive.  But still, there was something amiss.

Rob and I did the cohabitation/co-parenting thing for almost a year, and things were going well. Then, right before he left to go back to New York, his mom came to visit. I get along great with his mom, so I loved having her around. She even gave Rob a credit card to use so that we could really enjoy our last days together.

Turns out, though, that his brother maxed out the credit card in order to pay for his estranged wife’s bills, so we couldn’t use it.

Then, Rob’s mom offered to give us a car. The idea was, we’d have something to drive around if we went back to New York (at that time, we didn’t know if we’d move back). The idea was also, Just in case Rob can’t find a job, we have something to use as collateral for a loan, et al.

But guess what? His brother gave his own car away to his estranged wife and took for himself the car that was supposed to be for us.

Then, when it was clear that me and the kids were going to stay in the Philippines and Rob was going to work in the States, Rob’s uncle secured for him a job.

And guess who took it?

Now, here’s the thing: At the time, it didn’t really bother me. I mean, it did, but Rob’s mom’s side is very c’est la vie about this kind of thing. They’re a tight-knit clan and won’t let material things get in the way of loving each other. For the most part, I respect that and think it’s pretty cool. But today? Today I was typing with Rob (my laptop’s ancient and doesn’t have a mic or camera), and maybe it’s because I was already in a pretty shitty mood, or because Rob’s not good with English and doesn’t know how to emote via text/writing, or because the deadline for Rob’s landing a job is only two weeks away and he hasn’t gotten any calls back. All I know is, when Rob mentioned how his brother keeps on dicking us over, I got really, really upset.

Make no mistake: We don’t have much. I make a teensy bit of money every month, and now that the regular school semester’s at an end in the States and I’m too stressed with pregnancy, et al., to launch a huge business plan for the editing business, we’re depending mostly on Rob’s parents to squeak on by. I’m feeling threatened and really wishing we had a credit card, or a car to use as collateral, or a good and steady job for Rob. But we don’t have any of those things because his brother took them all. I know that if push really came to shove, I’d do the damn thing myself: Work my ass off, make that money, pay the bills, et al. – ALL. BY. MY. DAMN. SELF.

I know I could do it, but if I did do it, why the fuck am I with Rob? What the fuck would I need him for, besides sperm donation? (Assuming of course that I want all of my biological kids to have the same dad.) Why am I with someone who doesn’t have the ability to meet my needs?

In my upset state, I told Rob that I felt unsafe. I explained that I feel like we don’t have a lot, and that the least he could do was make me feel like the little we do have will remain ours. I told him I need to feel protected and taken care of. I explained that when it came to this whole thing about his brother, I expected some kind of reaction from him besides a shrug of the shoulders and complacency.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked.

“PUNISH HIM!” I yelled.

And it’s true. I want Rob to punish his brother. I want him to be mean and awful to his brother. I want him to inflict pain on his brother because I feel like his brother’s been doing that to us. It’s a primal urge, and it’s probably useless, but I don’t care. I’ve long ago packed away the need to be with the alpha male. Now, all I need is to feel like my man’s got some kind of power, authority, and control over what’s going on with us and our family. I need to feel like he’s not some doormat who will let his asshole brother take what little we have – not without a fight, at least. I need to see that he’s willing to fight for me, for us, for our family. I want to see that fight. I feel like I’ve been fighting for the longest time, and that every second of every day is a fight and he’s standing at the sidelines while I’m bleeding on the canvass.

I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel like Rob can take care of me. And I wonder if it’s always been that way. I wonder if he’s ever really taken care of me, if that’s the ugly truth that had peeked out two years ago at my baby shower. Maybe I had caught a glimpse of it and subconsciously put my hands over my eyes.

I also wonder if there’s someone else out there who could make me feel more guarded, protected, secure, and sheltered than I feel right now…

On being a pregnant nursing student with diarrhea.

The last few days have been a warm-up to the difficulties that await me. On Tuesday night, after eating brown rice and beef with onions, carrot sticks, walnuts, and lots of other healthy fare the whole day, I suddenly felt like I was going through labor. A really bad bout of diarrhea sent me to the bathroom faster than a 5-foot rat with rabies could’ve had me running. Also, I was exhausted after having a tiring day at school, and contractions wracked my body. I really thought Micah was going to be born a premie, and I kept on saying to him, “Not now. Mommy’s not ready yet. I don’t have your bassinet or your diapers or even the money for your delivery into this world. So, please? Not now. Give me at least two more months, and everything will be set. I’ll even love you more than I love your brother. Deal?”

That last part, of course, wasn’t serious.

I don’t think…

Anyway, the pain was getting unbearable, to the point where I couldn’t hold a cell phone to my ear while getting hit by contractions. (Rob and I were talking on the phone at the time.) Luckily, though, my ob-gyn had prescribed some pills to ease pre-term contractions. I took one at 2:30 a.m., and just as I was about to get some shut-eye, Riley woke up. So I woke up Joy. Then I quickly ran back to the bathroom and planted my ass there for what seemed like an eternity. By the time I was done, my butthole burned and I remembered how, after I gave birth to Riley, I’d had my first-ever case of hemmorrhoids and kept on thinking Ya know, this isn’t a walk in the park on a perfect Spring day, but it’s not like I’ve been caught butt-naked in the park and tourists are oggling me while a monsoon is tearing up the place.

Right after that thought hit me, I had an epiphany. Because hemmorhoids? They’re pretty fucking bad, and if I don’t remember that fact in all of its clarity and actually think that diarrhea-ass is more painful, then I must’ve been too high on motherhood to make an objective assessment of the situation.

And that made me think of the future. Because in about three months, I’m planning on popping out a baby as naturally as possible, bonding with him for no more than two weeks, then returning to the same old rigorous routine of school, family and running an editing business. And while I have help with Riley and the household, I still often feel drained and tired.

I had to ask myself: Can I really handle all that?

I wish I could say that a resounding HELL TO THE YES! screamed from the emptied bowels of my… umm… soul, but instead, I shrugged. Because the truth? The honest fucking truth? It’s that I don’t know if I can handle all of that. I don’t know what the future has in store, or what might come back from the past to bite my ass. I just know that I’m willing to stick it out, try my best, and make the best out of whatever comes. No matter the challenge, that’s what I’ve got, and I’m okay with the outcome, whatever it is.

Even if it burns my ass in the end.

Everything’s going my way.

It’s exam time yet again, and I’m so in over my head, people, I can’t begin to tell you how suffocated I’m feeling. My studying plans were interrupted by the sudden availability of a nanny for the kids; I had to drop everything and pick her up (along with her aunt and mom, since they wanted to  make sure we’re decent people and wouldn’t sell her into the sex trade or anything like that). And now? I’ve skipped out on two exams because I’m just not prepared to take them. I’m studying like crazy today and tonight, and hoping that the new nanny sticks around (although at this point, I’m uber paranoid that she’s not only unfocused in her duties, but that she’ll up and leave after her lack of focus allows something awful to happen to Riley).

For now, Rob’s still here so he can keep an eye on the new nanny (who also happens to be his second cousin). Because he’s here, I can relax a bit and get down to business. I’m hoping that after this week, I’ll be more relaxed and can focus on teaching her everything she needs to know about taking care of our little guy. Also, I’m hoping that she stops being so disturbingly quiet and starts to display some sort of personality other than “scared shitless of nothing in particular.”

Ha! Look who’s talking! A couple hours ago, I was beside myself with worry and anxiety over shit I really don’t have any power over. So what if the nanny leaves, and I’m one year behind? So what if my dad’s a royal jerk and my brother has a tendency to treat me like garbage? So what if people talk about me and don’t get the story right?

I know the story, and so do my loved ones (and you do, too, if you’ve been following along). I know who I am, and I know what I’m striving towards, and that’s all I really need right now. Because you know what? I’m kicking ass just by being me. I’ve set up an editing business that’s making me enough money so that I can take care of myself and my kid. [Rob, on the other hand, is kind of high-maintenance and requires his own budget LOL] That editing business is thriving and pushing me to new limits in my work as a writer and editor. I’m meeting so many wonderful people through the business and touching minds with some old friends, too. And also? While doing this, I’m taking care of myself and the baby that’s growing inside of me, and still managing to look sexy and turn heads. I’m writing up a storm of my own fiction and non-fiction, cooking dope-ass meals for the fam, taking Riley to see my grandmas and other extended family all the time, keeping the lines of communication going with my awesome friends and family abroad, and generally keeping everything in my domestic life in check.

Icing on the cake?

I just found out that my GPA is ranked in the top 10 at school. This, even though everyone cheats and I haven’t cheated a single time. This, even though I have a family to take care of. This, even though I run my own business.

Ya know what? I’m pretty damn convinced: I’ve got everything under control, and everything’s going to be okay.

Superstitious.

My mom’s really superstitious. She’ll be the one banging and clanging on pots and pans and honking horns and blowing whistles as the new year counts down – all so the bad spirits and evil luck are driven away. She’ll crowd the dining room table with an assortment of fruits – 13 round ones, and others of various shapes – because doing so supposedly keeps wealth and prosperity in the house. And don’t even get me started on the drying grapes and the rotten eggs hanging around the property…

Mom tells me that I should leave all bad thoughts and pessimistic karma behind me, so that my new year starts fresh and on the right foot. But, seriously? I can’t see myself doing that. Not after realizing just how bad my parents’ financial situation really is.

*****

Here in the Philippines, we’ve got it made. Not only is the cost of living a hell of a lot lower over here, but I’ve been able to ignore (at least momentarily) the small mountain of debt that I accrued while I was living in New York City.

I make enough to pay for mine and Riley’s smaller essentials (food, toiletries, medical care, et al.); things like the mortgage and utilities are taken care of by my folks; and extras like toys and eating out and going shopping are covered by Rob’s folks. As I’ve said on here before, Rob’s not really up on his making money game, and his folks get it. [That’s a whole ‘nother set of craziness to explore.] And as fortunate as I am, and as grateful as I am, and as appreciative as I am of all this generosity, I hate it. No one really expects me and Rob to take care of any of our expenses, and if I wanted to be a free-loader, that would be great. Thing is, I don’t want to be a free-loader, yet I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having agreed to be just that. That was, after all, what I signed off on when I decided to move to the Philippines. “Be an excellent mom, an awesome student, and figure out your life,” my parents had said. “We’ll take care of the rest.”

Every day, I hope to be half as good at loving my kids fiercely and unconditionally as my parents are.

*****

I won’t get into specifics because of privacy reasons, but basically, I just recently realized how bad my parents’ financial situation is, and it’s really, really bad. It’s so bad that I’m considering packing up my stuff, moving back to New York, and working two or three jobs to help them out. Riley will  stay with Rob’s mom while I’m working, and in a year or two when the finances are afloat, we’ll come back here to the Philippines so I can finish my nursing degree…

That’s what I’m thinking, anyway. It’s a crazy woman’s thought process, and if I let myself completely empathize with my parents and their situation, I would do it in a heartbeat. I would just move back to New York and take back my role as eternal family problem fixer, and I would work my little ass off until there was a light at the end of the tunnel. This is how bad their situation is. I mean, I can’t get off the phone with either of them without tearing up. I feel guilty that I can’t help them out more, that I agreed to moving here, that I’m living a comfortable life while they’re toiling away. I’m thisclose to forgetting that the beauty of living here is being away from distractions and being able to just buckle down and get items crossed off my to-do list. I’m in danger of some major regression, people. All of the hard work and progress that I’ve made is unwinding, and I feel myself letting go of my hard-won principles, and all the lessons I’ve taught myself are seeming frivolous.

These are my parents. They are flawed and have made many, many mistakes. They are terrible at handling money, and might lose everything because of it. But they have loved me with all their might and have taken care of me and sheltered me to the best of their abilities, and for that, they are amazing human beings. And it hurts, knowing they’re in pain, understanding that they’re thrashing in emotional and financial turmoil, feeling that they check their urges to purge their insides because they don’t want to worry me. They don’t want to adversely affect my studies or my pregnancy. They don’t want to be a burden.

My parents.

How could they ever think of themselves as anything short of extraordinary?

*****

I’ve never believed in superstitions. Instead, I put faith in hard work and commitment. This year is going to be one of the hardest, and I want to apologize in advance if I’m less available. Maybe it’s a kind of penance or punishment, or a mark of alliance with my parents, or just some crazy idea that I have, but I’m putting more pressure on myself from now on. I really have no choice but to fulfill my goals. I need to bring home a lot more bacon and take as much off my parents’ plates as possible. I owe it to them.

Gripes about God, and the many questions they raise.

Okay, so I wrote this and immediately realized that there are MANY talking points contained herein. Like the issue of control and how much of it a parent should exert on their children…

For all the love I have for my life and everyone/everything in it, there are a few complaints that I can’t help but have. My brother and his insistence on coveting the sin of sloth, for example. The fact that there’s only 24 hours in a day. My apparent amnesia concerning the how-to’s of swimming. But the one that’s currently messing with me is being overwhelmed with… religious…ness? Religiosity? Yeah, I’ll go with that. Religiosity. I’m overwhelmed by religiosity.

EVERY DAY, I witness people giving up their goals with a shrug and a “Whatever God wants will happen.” And it pisses me off. So. Much. That. It. Hurts.

So you’re unhappy at your job, in your marriage, with your grades, et al. Why not make a change? Why just accept your circumstances and say that it’s God’s will? The line of thinking seems to be “This is so because God wants it to be so. Therefore, I’ll just bend over and take it in the ass.” And I just don’t get it.

Being here, in this super-crazy Catholic country, where bishops and clergy are spouting off about how birth control is bad because taking control of you’re reproductive health means you’re denying God His choice of how many kids you’re going to have and when you’re going to have them, is driving me cah-razy. There are never any protests or marches or any form of civil disobedience when it comes to the issues that are important to me, and without an outlet, I’m grasping at straws. These are beliefs that speak to who I am as an individual, how I live my life, and how I see the world.

Every day, I’m confronted with religious talk. Prayers are conducted in class. Teachers give sermons about how people should live. Even on Facebook, certain family members can’t help but be all “Let go. Let God.” And it scares me. My world is full of people who carry opinions that are contrary to my own, and when I realize this the first thought in my head is Riley. What if he gets brain-washed by their thinking? What if he spends too much time with our uber-Catholic family members and gives up the values I’ve instilled in him? What then?

I know I have to trust Riley. I know that he’ll be a wonderful, strong, beautiful person no matter what beliefs he accepts about God and religion. I also know that one of the other values I’m ingraining in him is the ability and the will to think for himself. I want him to question everything, and to learn as much as he can, and to make up his own mind about who he is and what he’s about. I can’t help but wonder if and when that value may clash with the atheism that’s in full-effect in our household.

For now, at least, I can still control Riley’s influences and social circle. I’m trusting and keeping faith in my ability to shape a healthy and happy little person. And we’re safe in our tiny corner of the world.

That’s all that really matters.

Because I have babies on the brain.

It’s been a long-standing dream of mine to one day adopt a baby. Even though it may just be a pipe dream, I’m still saving up some cash to make it happen and doing my homework on how it’s done.

Lately, there have been a string of stories on the Filipino news about abandoned babies, and I keep thinking, Just leave one on my doorstep. S/He’ll have everything s/he could ever want.

It sounds, crazy, I know, but that’s how it’s done over here. A woman doesn’t want her baby, so the moment she brings it into the world, it’s given to someone else who gives it to someone else who gives it to someone else, et al., and within a day or two it finds a home with someone who wants to raise it. It’s done this way so that it’s difficult to trace the identity of the mother/parents, and to presumably give the kid a lease on a new life. Midwives and doctors are paid to cook up birth certificates and necessary documents, and voila! No one has to know that the kid isn’t biological.

It would be awesome if I could pull off something like that, but legality is an issue for me. So I’ve been doing some research, trying to figure out how I’d do this, and I’ve come across three snags:

  1. You have to be at least 27 years old to adopt a baby from the Philippines,
  2. $$$,   and
  3. What if, after meeting the prerequisite of living with the child for two years (presumably a relative, since that’s what I’m kind of aiming for), for some reason, I’m not able to legally adopt him? What am I supposed to do? Live in the Philippines forever, or leave my child in the Philippines while I live on the other side of the globe? Those are, like, Sophie’s Choice-type options. So. Not. Cool.

Still. My heart is open and my bank balance isn’t something to laugh at. No reason not to keep my doorstep clean and baby-friendly.

I should have worked for the CIA.

Tonight, two things happened:

  1. I finally watched the Angelina Jolie flick, Salt,   and,
  2. I had my first break with reality.

*****

It was 6 p.m. Rob, Riley and I were in my brother’s room, watching the movie, and Riley was agitated. One of his back molars are coming in, so Rob went back to our bedroom to get his bottle. Usually, biting on the nipple of a bottle is enough to soothe him, but tonight was another story. I knew he’d feel better if we went to our room, so we paused the film and walked down the hall.

When I stepped into the room with Riley, the lights were off. I turned them on and noticed that the electric fans were on. Rob came in and mentioned that he’d turned them on when he retrieved the bottle, and then he drew my attention to the screen door of the balcony. “When I came in here, though, the screen door was closed. I’m sure of it.”

*****

When I was little, I used to sleep with my shoes on. A book bag and jacket were always in my closet, waiting. At hand were necessities: money, water, matches, flashlight, batteries, granola bars, extra clothes, my passport, et al. They were all waiting in that knapsack. I was ready. I was always ready.

*****

I used to have dreams where I was running. People or monsters or vampires would be chasing me,  and I would be running for my life. I always seemed to be jumping and climbing and making my way through rabbit holes and strange attics and tunnels – sometimes all in the same dream – and sometimes, it would appear as if I’d get caught. But then I’d learn to fly or suddenly have some kind of super power. I was always very capable in these dreams, and they felt so vivid and real.

*****

A month after I moved to the Philippines, the Maguindanao Massacre happened. I’d already been feeling apprehensive about my move to a developing nation, and the massacre was exactly what was necessary to push me over the edge.

I remember, a couple of nights after it happened, I was watching the news and the reporter talked about the killings. Women had been raped before guns were shoved into their vaginas and fired. Some were gangraped. Kids had been killed, possibly after having been molested. Men…?

I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I now live in a country where things like that happen and no one is brought to justice. I didn’t want to think about what would happen if circumstances somehow made me or my son a victim of such a tragedy. I didn’t want to ask myself who I would turn to or what I would do. The truth is, I didn’t know the answers to these questions. I still don’t know the answers.

That night, I stared at Riley asleep in his crib, angelic as ever, and I started crying. Hysterically. Because what kind of mother brings her infant to a country where bad things happen and she has no one to trust? What kind of mother gives up the safety of trusted ambulances, police, and media, to haul her kid to a country where politicians are blatant, unscrupulous assholes? What kind of mother would do that? A bad one. I was sure I was a bad mom.

And I was scared. Not just because of the idea of being a bad mom, but because I truly believed that my safety was in danger. And, honestly, I still do. I’m scared shitless because there are no laws/rules/boundaries here. None that are respectable, at least. And I don’t know how I should function. I just know how I will function, and that’s a scary notion. Because I’m scared. And I think my safety and my son’s safety are in jeopardy simply by living in the Philippines. And fear augments peoples’ capacity to do irrational things.

I will kill someone.

*****

I sat on the bed, while clutching Riley in my lap and watching Rob open all of the closets. The whole time, I imagined a man stepping out with a knife, and I kept telling myself not to panic. If someone jumped out, I had to be ready. I had to scream to Rob exactly the right and concise phrase to make him know the location of the intruder. I had to throw something heavy or sharp at the assailant. I had to keep Riley safe. I had to do a lot of things, and the more I thought about it, the more I kept on seeing red, and I remembered The Stranger, and how the protagonist saw red before he stabbed the man at the beach. I imagined that that’s just what happens right before you take a life: the world is painted in a gory tinge of bright red, which makes it difficult to know what’s really going on.

Rob searched everywhere, and my adrenaline was making my heart pound like a bass drum, and I suddenly felt nauseous, and I thought about the gun we keep under the bed and started wondering where I hid the bullets. I thought about running to my brother’s room and retrieving a few of his fighting knives. I thought about stuffing the diaper bag with our essential documents and whatever was lying around, and putting on my sneakers.

I was scared and paranoid and confused and frenzied, and I don’t know how or when it happened, but somehow it came out that the whole thing was a joke. But it was too late. I was already screaming and crying hysterically. Over and over again, between hyperventilating sobs, I kept yelling, “Never do that to me!” And the whole time, I couldn’t escape the scenes flashing through my head: running, fighting, clawing, flying with an excited fury out of harm’s way.

*****

I used to fantasize about joining the military or CIA. I wanted to go through the rigorous physical and emotional training. I wanted to prove my mettle. I wanted to show people, to show myself, that I could withstand that kind of pressure.

Whenever I ran on my parents’ treadmill, I’d put on a horror film and run especially hard and fast when the killer came onto the screen. I knew I had to run or be killed. It was a kind of training. Just like sleeping with shoes on. Or having a backpack of necessities ready. Or learning to read behind the words escaping peoples’ mouths.

*****

When Rob arrived in the Philippines and saw our house for the first time, he said, “I just looked at the place, and I know how to climb up to the master bedroom.” This, despite our guard dogs, and the tall gate surrounding our property, and the perennial periphery of onlooking neighbors.

*****

Two weeks ago, when Rob and I had a huge blowout about his going back to New York, I’d mentioned how scared I was. How I feel like the only person I can trust in the Philippines is my brother, and he was flaky. How I fear for my bodily safety, and for Riley’s safety, too. How I’m willing to deal with my fear because living here is the only real shot I have at… I don’t know. I’m not sure why I ascribe incredible characteristics to this place and our plan of living here, but I do. Something in my gut tells me that great and wonderful things are going to happen if I stay in the Philippines and make good on all of my plans.

But something also tells me that I’m going to be challenged in ways I’ve only ever considered in nightmares.

And that thrills and excites and confuses and scares me.

*****

Rob should have known better. He should have known that I’m scared. He should have remembered the conversation we had two weeks ago. When I told him that, he said, “I remember what you said about being scared. I just thought that you wouldn’t be scared because you know everyone here.”

My fears hadn’t made sense to him. So he’d disregarded them.

*****

Rob’s going to see a therapist in New York. Hopefully, he’ll learn more about himself and how/why he does what he does, and I can finally put an end to the conundrum of Rob. I want to know when he’s joking. I want to get why he thinks it’s okay to scare the shit out of me. I want to get, mostly, why he didn’t understand what would happen if he continued making me believe that there was an intruder in our room. I want to know why he completely disregarded my fears and discarded my trust.

I want him to make sense to me.

*****

In those moments of fear, when Rob was searching the room for an intruder, I felt myself slipping. Rationality had escaped, and I was trying desperately to reign her back in. I was capable of doing anything. I think I’m going crazy, I thought. But if I know I’m crazy, then I can’t be crazy, right? That’s how that goes? Or maybe I’m only questioning my craziness because I know that most people consider that the sane thing to do?

And then the fear from my craziness. The frenzied sensation of worry as I realized that I was losing touch with reality. The second wherein I’d considered suicide to save Riley from the fate of having a crazy mom. The next second, where I felt suicide would be a better option than letting Rob drive me crazy.

And that: The thought that Rob would someday drive me crazy. Because he knows how. Because he knows how close I am to the edge, and that he’s capable of doing it. Because he knows I trust him and will let my defenses down. Because he knows that he can. Because he doesn’t want to, but he won’t catch himself doing it until it’s too late.

I really think Rob is the personification of all those mind-washing techniques employed by the military and CIA. Loving him is the closest I’ll ever be to living out that dream.