I wear my hair straight when I’m nervous; it makes me feel organized. There’s a certain composure when it’s just smooth commas, falling down my back, allowing for rest and measured beats of calm. Pauses. My ringlets are chaos, my red heart in strands, bouncing on my sleeves. You can see too much of me in it, my full hand. It will be curly again tomorrow because of the rain.
Feeling organized helps alleviate fear; I spent the weekend housekeeping. Art supplies were stowed, office supplies stacked, my life in a closet of shelved boxes of interest, obligations, and receipts. Matchbooks, business cards with numbers and names, napkins with ideas. Pascal and Plato in a graph that you wrote in that bar. And when you left for the bathroom, it was as if I knew I’d always have that note. I slipped the white square into my pocket. I knew I’d need the memory; I hate that I hold it.
Having my outfit picked out, bags packed, everything in its place gives me some idea of control. Fear is easier to face with crossed off to-do lists, with a packed suitcase under my armoire.
When I was frightened as a young girl, I played a Paddington Bear record and hid beneath the dark dining room table. I remember hiding there and smelling wood polish. The smell comforted me; it’s a scent that lets you know things are being cared for, handled, preserved. Pledge. There’s a security in it, like milk.
I liked how formal Paddington was, with his tidy English accent. There was an order to him, a compactness, which I found soothing. Nothing bad happens to people who do Tea and eat crumpets. Paddington always carried a suitcase, with a secret compartment for important papers; he was on the move. I’m unsure if he was running away or towards something. Maybe he was running, looking for a dining room table, somewhere safe.
When he arrived in Paddington station, he was discovered sitting on a suitcase near some mail, wearing a label around his neck bearing the words, “Please Look After This Bear. Thank You.” I need that sign to wear.
I’m a little frightened now, and if I were a hat person, I’d wear one and tuck a marmalade sandwich beneath it for emergencies. Jelly sandwiches always seem to make things okay.
At least Linus’ middle name is Paddington. Today’s sign is on my shirt bearing the words, “Love Me Love My Dog.” It’s my way of saying, take care of me.