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Fear and Infinitude

YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED to be afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. There is nothing, at any rate, to be afraid of that being afraid of it won’t compound. We have nothing to fear but compound fear.

I’m afraid of Mrs. Jenkins. I have no idea who she is. I am certain I would be afraid of her if I knew her. The name is arbitrary.

I am afraid of success, in its full-blown forms and in its tinctures. Of failure, I used not to be afraid, but that was a pose; one embraces failure to deny success. But now I am afraid of failure, too. It is zero, or negative, success, and just as scary.

Of lunatics I am glibly, blithely unafraid. Unless they get near me, particularly if they are undiagnosed. Of lunacy I am afraid: my own. Of course. Being afraid of only the common scary things in life is scary. There is more to be afraid of, and to be more afraid of, than the putative fearful.

I am afraid of stupidity — as in lunacy, my own. The stupidity of others is, usually, a comfort. Not always.

It’s comforting to be well off in terms of money, but even a sackful of money is a temporary phase of a sack of nothing, and therefore money can give you real creeps.

Sex. Who is not afraid of sex? One is afraid of sex outright (rare), afraid of one kind of sex, afraid of certain acts of sex, afraid of not having some kind of sex or enough sex or of not having any sex at all — of sex, who is not, somewhere, sometime, afraid?

There’s a high-singing dude behind a door where I sit and have coffee right now. I doubt that he is afraid of anything at all. He’s not afraid, for one thing, of sounding more like a woman than a woman can. I wouldn’t be either, come to think about it, but I can’t begin to do it. I’ll wager — just natural laws — he’s afraid of something, but I suspect it’s trivial if it exists at all.

The trivial for me is, of course, one of the truly frightening things in the world. Again: one’s own is the corker here, and yet one practices triviality all one’s life in preparation for coming to terms with it; one trains for an entire fifteen rounds of being pronounced trivial, and then, right at the end, one relaxes and gets knocked out by the fact of one’s triviality. Very scary, this bugger.

Now is a scary item if ever there was one. I have, I suspect, never not miffed the now. Now is too fast for me. Now leads to drinking. Drinking undoes now handsomely. Dismantles the whole onslaught. And in that refuge, respite of straight time, you can be afraid to come back, very very afraid. Very. Very.

I think of Mrs. Jenkins. I wish I knew her. I’d have her sexless, therefore free of that kind of fear. Yes: the only sexual fear pertaining to Mrs. Jenkins is the feeblest one: of not having any at all. No sex with Mrs. Jenkins. Let’s establish that. It’s out of the way. Of no concern, to us or to Mrs. Jenkins. Mrs. Jenkins, whatever else might plague her, is not afraid of having no sex with us either. Or with anyone. Mrs. Jenkins is, as the phrase goes, whatever it means actually (but we’ve established our own meaning), sexless, save for her marital relations. God, I like her already. To Mrs. Jenkins you will not sing, If you want to be a friend of mine, bring it with you when you come. You won’t sing it because, if she understands it, it’s bad form, and if she doesn’t, it’s pointless, leads to explication, embarrassing self-explication.

Embarrassment, taken to soaring heights, can be scary.

So: with Mrs. Jenkins we will observe correct manners. We are getting to know her. We are going to neither broach nor have sex with her, and we will be correct in all dealings with her. As correct as an etiquette book, if possible. Though here we will have to guess, not ever having read one, except for amusement, and then only parts, of course. One might consider reading etiquette books entire, even current ones, if they exist, and remaking oneself in their image, but I find this scary and probably unnecessary for our relationship with Mrs. Jenkins. With Mrs. Jenkins, I should think a program of simple but vigilant common decency would be sufficient. Mrs. Jenkins should not be judged boring by this prescription for our deportment with her. We will be boring.

Mrs. Jenkins will be so interesting she will scare you.

Will we want to know about her husband? Even though we ourselves are not to be sexually interested in Mrs. Jenkins, still we might, within the boundaries of common decency, determine that Mr. Jenkins is himself a cad unworthy of Mrs. Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins is probably just a middling kind of oaf very much like ourself, but he is enjoying the advantages of and therefore our vague scorn for his no-cut contract on the Mrs. Jenkins team.

Mrs. Jenkins makes love to Mr. Jenkins with a lot of jewelry on.

Mrs. Jenkins will atomize perfume into the sheets, a cloying sweetness that suggests Ding dong! Avon calling! and prevents you from breathing properly and makes you feel superior to people (like Mr. Jenkins) afraid of human odors and all the funky delights found beyond the gates of excess as you in your superior way regularly find and love them.

Mrs. Jenkins may even work herself out of a girdle. She may have a cellulite problem. It is possible, though, given her manner — a kind of quiet, Come home, boy attitude she manages by patting the mattress twice beside her hip — that Mrs. Jenkins is the most powerfully attractive woman we have ever seen and we may champ at the bit of our contract with her, that clause about not having sex with her which we agreed to early in the imagining of her, and which was necessary for the imagining of her, but which we now, as we smell her room odiously sweet and see her bashfully and yet boldly pat the bed beside her inviting, dimpled thighs, regret. And in that regret, within the boundaries of common decency, we assault the privileged Mr. Jenkins, who usurps our place in all that perfume.

Mr. Jenkins probably has more and better diplomas than we have, and yet has arguably not done much with them. We have done more with our few, poor certificates. Mr. Jenkins has never really not had money, and that he has not had a lot has never bothered him. Mr. Jenkins is some kind of asshole on cruise control. It would not be inappropriate, within the boundaries of common decency, if we were to lift him from his Masters-and-Johnson-guided toils upon Mrs. Jenkins by a wire garrote around his neck.

Here we would have a problem. Mr. Jenkins is the kind of guy who would, somehow, get both hands under the garrote before you hoisted him up to the ceiling and, though capable of talking, say nothing. Out of some kind of prudence, too, rather than fear. Mr. Jenkins has a manual in his head for all occasions. The best thing to do, in case of wire garroting when making love to your wife, is, after you have inserted your hands under the garrote to prevent serious injury to your neck, say nothing to your assaulter, who anyway may be, and in many cases is, invisible. Do not try to reason with the invisible lovemaking garroter. He can be made more dangerous.

“We will let you down if you’ll talk,” you tell him, but he will still just hang there, breathing a mite harder perhaps than he was moments before, his eyes very slightly widened, perhaps.

Mrs. Jenkins, yes: all that perfume, dimpled flesh, bangles bangling! Mr. Jenkins levitated, prudent, above us. If the invisible lovemaking garroter assumes your position with your wife, remain calm. An outburst on your part, even a show of agitation, can be disastrous. The garroter need not, should not, for example, see you wiggle your legs or run in space above him. Hang motionless. He will forget you.

If you could figure out what to do with the Mr. Jenkinses of the world, both before and after you’ve garroted them to the ceiling, you’d be a lot better off, infinitely better off, infinitely.