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jones a coward2

April 27th, 1992
“Greetings from Fairbanks! This is the last you shall hear from me Wayne. Arrived here 2 days ago. It was very difficult to catch rides in the Yukon Territory. But I finally got here.
Please return all mail I receive to the sender. It might be a very long time before I return South. If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again I want you to know you’re a great man. I now walk into the wild. Alex.

—(personal postcard, reprinted in INTO THE WILD, by John Krakauer)

What scares me?
You want general or particular?
–An economic crisis, the kind where no one can get a job and everyone is homeless, walking around in overcoats, standing in line for bread, making fires in old trash barrels. Another Great Depression. Yeah. Scared of that.
–Ye Olde Candle Shoppe and Fudge stores, crap shops and souvenir stands, lined up around every decent spot of natural beauty or historical significance in America. Cruise ships looming over all of it in seemingly shallow water.
–Scared I am worse than I think I am.
–Scared I am better than I think I am.
–Scared that the man I love decides he doesn’t love me back. Not anymore. Yes, he did before, for a really long time, and in spite of my flaws, but now he doesn’t. Just like that. Won’t even talk to me. Because he loves someone else, and she has a really fabulous job and gets even more emails than he does. She has a blonde bob. They run 10K races together.

What was I scared of as a kid?
–The rapture. Thanks to the sick Christian horse camp my parents sent me to. The counselors did a skit by the campfire: You come home from school and your house is empty. Why? Because Judgment Day happened when you were on the bus, and all the godly kids were taken up into heaven, and you, well, you were left down on Earth. Because you are bad. Your family all got picked, EVEN THE DOG. But not you. You nasty little sinner.
–I was scared to be the one to lose the relay race for my four-person team.
–Scared I would never grow breasts. That I was some kind of hermaphrodite who would never reach puberty.
–Scared my mom would forget to pick me up from school.
–Scared of the neighborhood bully, who really was bigger than all the other kids and who really did glare at me and later, much later, went to jail for murder. (That might be hearsay.)
–Scared to talk to that cute boy, oh, how I loved him! The name changed, but the trembling love stayed the same.

What I will be scared of in the future?
–Bad things happening to the planet that can’t be reversed.
–Irresponsible young men who drive like maniacs.
–Breaking my hip or other bones.
–Arthritis. Bowel complaints. Adult diapers.
–Toxic imports from China.
–French people.
–Poor people.
–Rich people.

Better get braver and fast.



*about the art: cartoon by Nicolas Bentley, from the book Wisdom for Others by George Mikes, c. 1952.