I Find Myself Clutching onto a Ladder of Hope.
I’m hot, and I’m bothered, and I want to run from you.
The anxiety triggered by simultaneously holding my fear in one hand and my love in the other feels like I’m continuously setting myself on fire. In the midst of panic, I do that thing where I search for a sign. It seems as if that would bring relief. That would lead to turning a valve to release a forceful surge of water sent to cool and quench these flames.
I’m still in shock. My questions roll out like billows of dirty vapor. They are aimless in their direction, and unclear as to what they want to say. I’m momentarily entranced by their dance. My chest, inflating with their painful strains of this counterfeit oxygen, keeps telling me this is what I need.
All I can think about is how this twisted kind of backwards pull is the kind of faulty strategizing that ends up leaving me with burns. I’m almost sure I’ve nearly died on this hill before. I remember the weeks on end of triaging with balms, and prayers, and dampened disbelief. I know I have been instructed by those before me that this is just how the journey, through these highs and lows, tends to go.
If that is true, then I think this must be what they call a “trial by fire” and what they mean by “the only way through is through.” Yet, pushing upward and onward, I find myself choking on the thinning air where the heat rises. More breaths are taken from me than I can seem to find. There returns the panic because I am afraid of running out of time. I assume it is because of the heat that I can’t sleep.
I’m full of dreams so tossed and turned. I feel like a victim of a deviant pyromaniac, who broke in and burned up all the lessons I had learned. All that wasted time hangs on me like a grafted skin that won’t stick. Leaping to save my own life, I find myself clutching onto a ladder of hope. While trying to recount all the safety routes, I’m scanning for every exit sign.
I don’t know if I could handle the trauma of watching them combust. It’s like all of this is a dream. Then I wake up to find I’m actually wearing firefighter gear and hearing the alarms going off calling me to someone else’s burning house. I think of quitting, and then this is the moment that I finally look up and I lock eyes with you. I see us treading water together.
While the world’s debris falls away and floats by, I know it is something from our souls keeping us connected and alive. So, I bow my head and take a deep breath and reach for you.
The only way I can hold your hand is to free up one of mine. So, for the last time, holding fear and love, I hope that I end up giving up the one that’s been making me blind.
Erica Bauman resides in Cincinnati, OH. and has recently gone back to school for her Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She is a freelancer, a mom, and a psychology student. Erica is a performer, volunteer, and student of Improv Cincinnati. She believes deeply in the beauty of people’s stories, that music makes everything better, and that laughter is truly the best medicine. She hopes to impact everyone that crosses her path in that they feel they are somehow better for having done so. She has been published with Rebelle Society and The Kindred Voice. You could contact Erica via Instagram.