True Sentiment: A Fear of the Human Face

Written by: Travis Goure

For a long time I’ve been deeply frustrated by my inability to express the form of my fear. So now, as it presently occurs to me, I’m surprised to see some of its manifestations, the first and most monstrous of which is my fear of the human face. It is a fear of their expressions, of what I think they’ll say, against what they truly do. It is like when I’ve been in a grocery store, and said something to a clerk which returned a peculiar look, one which reads, to me, that what I said was inappropriate, or obtuse, or taken the wrong way. In those instances I have often spent a week or more replaying that scenario in my mind until I find some strange way of bridging its cold disharmony.

It is nearly impossible for me to hold a conversation without my heart rattling, my legs swaying, and why?

We’re both made of fantasies, after all. We’re both made up of the stories that have been told about us, the templates we have ourselves provided or which have been provided for us. For a man to know another man in a moment is impossible, and indeed in that very brief first conversation, they will only seek to know each other within the walls of what they’ve been told already. But despite that, I’m so fearful that I can hardly spare a true sentiment. I breathe heavily. . .I yawn and say ‘oh my’, to fill the silence.

And just the same, I’m frightened of being known, for to be known is to be found out. For you to know that I haven’t read all that many books, that I’ve lied about what I know, that my knowledge of history and philosophy is middling at best, and that I’m too lazy to change that. I’m afraid of you knowing that in the end, I’d truly just like to be famous, to be popular with celebrities and go on book tours and drink wine with literary magazine editors. I’m afraid you’ll think I’m awful, or worse, very good. It is David Foster Wallace who said: “The more people think you’re really good, the stronger the fear of being a fraud is.” And that is what I am, and all at once alone, and in these fears I am unconscionably boisterous, excessively loud, often mad, all to scare off that thing in you which frightens me.

I’m so angry with myself. I don’t know if it’ll ever go away. It is my proclivity to steal from the minds of others. It is the sad reiterations of life which have for so long comprised my being here, my existing, my merely transient participation in the actions of man. It is like, as I presently remember it, someone dear to me once sang: “take all my words for a sign/of coming up/shorter each time.” I don’t want to go on like a child in a riot, quietly hysterical, unable to move. I have tried so incredibly hard to be nothing whatsoever. The moments go on moving like sand turning in a sphere, and I doubt my heart’s ability to carry on. ©

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