There’s a feeling I get when I’m alone in public, and I can only think to liken it to how wild animals must feel when we approach them, encroaching on their serenity. That wide eyed look in their eyes and how they suddenly stop short and their ears twitch. They can feel you and they’re getting ready to run.
And I wonder if my eyes look like that, or if people can see me physically stiffen. I had it down pat in my old neighborhood. I knew which roads to take and what time of day it was least likely that there would be people on them.
But more than that I preferred to walk at night, in the dark when there were no people, no cars, or if there were, if was too dark to see me anyhow. Or I would ride my bike so I could whiz by anyone there might be before I could give myself time to think about it. But crosswalks are a trial, especially at rush hour when I stand with my back to a steady line of cars, feeling their eyes on me. I take deep breaths and focus my eyes on the orange hand and silently will it to say ‘walk’.
We now live on one of the busiest streets in orem. And it’s keeping me inside.
I tell myself I’ll go out, to the store, to the library, to the park, just somewhere so I can get out of the house. But then I look out the window and see all the cars, and people passing by and I push myself a little deeper into the bean bag I’m sitting on.
But today enough was enough. And three weeks of staying in wasn’t going to turn in to four. I’m taking back roads to the library and writing this to keep my head down because I can’t fully avoid the streams of cars. But I’m here.
I learned that this feeling I get has a name: scopophobia. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse.