ICP #135 | On infantilising fear

I don’t own a house or anything so the thing that makes me feel most grown up is getting on a plane on my own. The first time I did it I was twenty-two and flying to New Zealand from England, so I guess that was jumping in the deep end. But even now, even at thirty and flying only between cities, I feel mature. I feel real.

In Sydney, I spend some time in a lab with a scientist. She works in genetic modification and her everyday is more complicated than I can really know. But she gives me a window. She lets me use a syringe. She lets me spread a sample on a Petri dish. She says I have a natural talent for it. She explains what she’s working on and I understand it and she’s impressed that I understand. I think about the C I got in A Level biology and I feel far away from the girl I was then. I feel more woman than child.

The house I’m staying in is also the set of the show I’m rehearsing. So there are lights and sound effects and boxes blocking the fridge door and my bed is covered in ivy. I joke with the others about staying in the haunted house, the dead house. We joke about it. But everything’s fun and games until you’re on your own in the dark.

On the third night, at 5am, one of the sound effects turns on spontaneously. It is a thick breathing in and out, a distorted heavy breath. It wakes me. It is the worst possible sound to be woken by. And it is not a dream or even a nightmare. And it does not stop. Not until I scramble from the bed, scrap through the items in the drawer, find the box, take the speaker out, find the switch and turn it. And by then I’m rattled. By then I can’t fall asleep.

I think of the flights I’ve taken to arrive here, at this exact point. This part of the world, this time of my life. The years, the miles. I think of the day I spent in the lab, how accomplished I felt, how intelligent. I think about my career, about success, about being introduced as a playwright. The gravitas, the pride, the sheer adulthood of it all.

But I skitter to and from the bathroom. And I check under the bed for intruders, for monsters. And I star wide-eyed at the ceiling. And I draw the blanket closer. And I draw it closer still.



A version of this post was sent by email on the 2nd June 2019 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.

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