You could call me superstitious, but you’d only be half right. Certainly I believe that broken mirrors and umbrellas indoors and crossing under ladders and black cats causes bad luck, just like four leaf clovers and burning incense and rabbit’s feet causes good luck. And yet, it isn’t the actual thing that causes it. It’s the symbolism of it.
So yes, I’m superstitious, but for good reason.
Fear is a powerful fuel. Fear of death keeps us constantly building a legacy so we can survive in people’s memories. Fear of pain keeps us from taking risks that will lead to us getting hurt. People say fear pulls us back, but in reality, all it does is drive us forward. People are so afraid of fear that they don’t stop and realize what fear really is.
In fact, fear was what always kept our family together. Because without family, what are you? Who are you?
Fear was what eventually drove me away, too. Because if you’re defined only by your family, then do you really have an identity? Do you mean anything at all?
I saw the black cat on the windowsill and knew that something awful would happen. I saw it crossing the street directly in front of my house and knew that I’d be having bad luck for a while. I saw it sitting on the hood of my car, soaking in sunlight, and knew that darkness was approaching.
There’s nothing stronger than fear, but people still try to fight it. They know that without it, they’d be dead, be gone, but they can’t help themselves. The person who’s conquered fear is the strongest person of all. Haunted houses, horror movies, suspenseful books, all appeared to help people overcome the one thing that had kept them alive for so many years. Because once you’ve managed to destroy that one, unbreakable thing, you no longer need it.
I never tried to run away from fear. My family taught me that fear was the one thing that would always remain constant. They were right about that. They were right about everything.
The cat followed me all day. As I walked to work. As I ate lunch with a coworker who calls herself my friend. As I make phone calls to my clients about work and transactions and scaling our product and so on.
It watched me as I walked through the dark hallways of our office buildings, observed my every movement. It knew who I was, what I was, with or without my family.
It was dark, midnight black with golden eyes like lanterns. It stalked silently, blended perfectly with the shadows. It was the essence of bad luck, the embodiment of evil, and it was following me.
Can you blame me for being afraid?
Even as people try to conquer fear, they’re still susceptible to it in everyday lives. To escape the fear of loneliness, make friends, form relationships.
They call it love. But what is love except a different form of fear? People call it love to make themselves feel better about it. But it’s not love. Love doesn’t exist. Everyone knows that the heart beats faster when it’s afraid.
And in the end, it’s fear, not love, keeping us alive. Controlling everything we do.
I held my rabbit’s foot keychain tightly in my hand as I walked to work. Hopefully, it would be enough to ward off the bad luck the cat gave me. I made sure to sprinkle salt into my clothes. The three keys I brought jangle in my pockets. All these things are signs of good luck, which people claim is the opposite of bad luck but isn’t.
If darkness is following me, then I’ll bring along light. Not to overcome the darkness. Light doesn’t destroy the darkness, it distorts it.
Even so, it might not be enough.
It’s never enough.
The person who isn’t afraid is either very foolish or very brave. And yet that saying doesn’t mean anything, because to be brave is to be foolish. Not being afraid is not having common sense. Not listening to the thing that’s always there for us, always supporting us, always waiting for us no matter what we do, is just ungrateful.
And if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s ungrateful. My parents always told me to be grateful for what I had, even when I had nothing.
Sometimes, nothing is more than enough.
The cat follows me to work, bringing along a murder of crows. Their cries cut into the cold air. The heavy flapping of their wings leaves behind the sense of death.
The cat watches me, its ears pricked and alert. It thinks it’s scaring me. It’s right.
For a second, I almost turn around. Stare death into the eyes. But to do that would be to tempt fate, to fight fear. That is not who I am, who I ever was.
As I walk, I notice more cracks in the sidewalk, more broken glass, the remains of mirrors hurled into the ground. It seems that bad luck is following me no matter where I go. I feel a burst of fear in my chest, and I revel in it.
Fear is protection, after all.