I’m Afraid to Move
On all the places we are afraid to leave.
The Internet tells me there is a name for this: topophobia, which sounds so cute. “Topo” is Greek for place, although it sounds like a pogo stick or an ice cream topping. The Internet helpfully explains that people with topophobia miss out on a lot of things, like better jobs or relationships or the whole wide world, and no shit. Despite my fear of moving, I constantly fantasize about moving.
I want to live in Denmark, where I spent a blissful year as a kid. Or in the desert, where the horizon gives your spine the tingly feeling. Or somewhere I could have old fat appaloosas in the backyard.
But these fantasies require leaving my small little house, which is holding me hostage. But in a nice way, even with all its problems.
There’s the difficult neighbor with the even more difficult, aggressive boyfriend who has screamed in my face more than once. Teenagers in white sports cars speed down my street, one almost killing me and my last dog. There’s the lack of storage, forcing my roasting pans to share a utility closet with hammers and a fire extinguisher.
But I still don’t want to leave. I’m scared. When I sent an early draft of this essay to a friend, he asked “yeah, but why are you afraid to leave?” “Because it would make me sad,” I said simply, assuming that was the end of the inquiry. Then he gently tried to explain that the desire to avoid sadness is not the same as fear, and I thought, “What are you talking about? Of course it is.”
To be fair, there’s a specific type of sadness I’m trying to avoid. I once had a beautiful apartment in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, which I bought for nothing because there were still drug dealers on the corners, now replaced with wine bars. I sold it to move to Los Angeles, to follow a boy.
Selling the apartment seemed like the right decision at the time. In my mid-thirties I was laser-focused on getting married, and I thought that if your disturbed-but-very-funny boyfriend tells you he wants to move back to Los Angeles, you…