its competence and honesty. I cringe at the patronizing âsparkâ and appreciateâin a writerly senseâthe image about arguing with his imagination.
I try for a long time to figure out what he intends by reiterating âenoughâ in the final sentences. Is he mournful or exasperated? In the end, I decide on the latter. He must really mean âEnough!â I figure heâs dropped the exclamation point out of a sense of chivalry.
Iâm still convinced that Staphysagria has given me an allergic reaction.
So instead of taking it, I spend the weekend gulping Lycopodiumâthe homeopathic remedy for fear. Lycopodium comes from club mosses, and that seems to suit me. All those weeks at my folksâ house are turning me into a kind of forest moss myself. What am I becoming if not a sodden blob? And my mood certainly seems to be spreadingâreducing everyone around me to rot.
A little Internet research tells me that the Lycopodium patient is âsaddened in the morningâ and âannoyed by little thingsâ all day. She is also âdeficient of ideasâ (something tells me my editor wonât disagree on this point) and she âcanât bear to read anything sheâs written.â She is extremely sensitive to noise (like, say, the barking of her parentsâ idiotic, ill-disciplined dogs), and, even though sheâs averse to company, she has a debilitating fear of being alone.
As a little girl Iâd had a real, violent, almost physical fear of being left alone. My fatherâwho sometimes preferred to leave me waiting alone in the car while he ducked into a Stop & Shop to buy kitty litterâalways returned to find me crying, hyperventilating, or eyeing the parking lot (not to mention the rearview mirrors and the dashboard clock) with a face of panicked vigilance. In the rare instances when I got off the school bus and swung open the door on an empty house, I would wait trembling with my backpack on the front stoop until my mother returned from her chat with a neighbor.
In adulthood, this phobia has more than loosened its grasp. For the past four years Iâve lived and worked alone, shirking crowds and dreading group engagements. In my relationships prior to the Lark, Iâd been detached, guarded, noncommittal, and bound to a labyrinth of self-imposed rules that meant no one got close enough to wound or reject me. I told one boyfriend he wasnât allowed to stay over more than two nights a week. I also evaded the same brave soul whenever he proposed moving in together. And the few times he dared to push the conversation even furtherâto marriage?âI cut him off at the kneecaps with words as cold, sharp, and precise as a samurai sword.
In the days after the Lark writes back with the bit about the âspark that hadnât become a flame,â some ghost of the old dread returns to me.
The fear hits me hardest at night, like a full-body blow, and I dread climbing into my bed. All night I lie awake and agitated. Those are the moments when the walls seem to constrict. When the floor fan makes an unbearable, pornographic slapping sound. I kick off the covers in fitful, twitching movements. But no matter how I turn, I canât shake the feeling of being queasy, severed from the world, resentful, and panicked.
Why has this fear of being alone returned?
I convince myself that it must be because Iâm Larkless. Iâm too anxious to ponder what my present situation could possibly mean: I feel alone in the presence of my family.
Even worse than my sudden fear of solitude is the anxiety I feel about writing.
When I wrote my first memoir, my only problem had been trying to get my stubby fingers to type fast enough to keep up with the words that dashed like ticker tape through my head. The first draft of Smashed had skated out of me in four months.
My objective, journalistic little anger book, on the other hand, had already taken