The Fear of Fear

Norbert is neurotic, so neurotic, he’d be the first to tell you how neurotic he is. Norbert knew he couldn’t help it, no matter what any of his dozens of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts said. Norbert had been diagnosed as having phobophobia, the fear of phobias, the Mother of all phobias. Norbert feared fearing everything. The upside to the fear of fearing everything, is that everything cancels everything else out, leaving a dull white noise in Norbert’s ear.

He equally feared driving as much as he feared not driving. The two would wipe each other out, putting Norbert behind the wheel of his car driving himself (crazy) to a job he equally feared having and losing. Norbert was a Supreme Court Justice of The United States of America. He was afraid he was afraid of making decisions, so he was fearful of how much he wanted to make them. The more he was afraid of it, the more he wanted it. He was afraid he made decisions all the time about things he had no business deciding.

“It won’t rain tomorrow,” Norbert decreed to his car radio, disagreeing with its weather report.

When he wasn’t acting as a Supreme Court Justice, Norbert spent his summertimes gardening and his wintertimes molding then painting garden gnomes. The scarier the garden gnome, the more Norbert loved it. He thought the same about his wife, Betty. His wife’s face reminded Norbert of a gargoyle. He loved her madly.

He feared he feared love. There was nothing he wanted more, love. So he said, ‘I love you’ to everyone he met, including bus drivers and bus boys. His wife, Betty, resented how freely her husband used a word and phrase she felt should be saved just for her.

“Hon, you don’t have to tell every single person you meet you love them. It’s a bit awkward for everyone, including and especially me,” Betty requested her husband.

Norbert was standing, holding a hotdog dripping with mustard, now paralyzed by the timing of his wife’s words. What did she mean by, ‘especially me’? He thought to ask her, but he feared what she might say.

“Sir, your change,” said the hotdog lady who Norbert had informed he loved.

Norbert was afraid of accepting the bacteria on the money as much as he was afraid of being shortchanged. He took the two quarters and put them in his pocket.

“Do you love me?” Betty asked her husband as they walked away from the hotdog lady.

“I love you,” he said automatically.

“More than the hotdog lady?”

“I love you,” he said, because he knew it wasn’t true and he feared the fear of breaking up more than fear of staying together, so he really wanted to break up. This is what kept them together.

And when the Supreme Court Justices were deadlocked four to four on abortion rights, it was Norbert who could cast the deciding vote because he knew how ridiculous it was to save something that was just as well never being born in the first place.

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