Judith Ortíz Cofer - 1952-2016
The Pleasures of Fear
We played a hiding game, the son of my mother's friend and I, until he chased me into the toolshed and bolted the door from outside. It was there, in the secret, moist dark, the child's game changed to adventure. As I listened through the splintered wood to his ragged breath, his weight pressing down on the thin wood, making it groan, waiting while I stood on the other side, I was caught in time, thrilled and afraid by his power, by his power to strike, and mine to yield. I crouched close to the ground inhaling the sour-sweet potpourri of rancid oil, rotting wood, old leather, and rust. I could have died right then and there, of anticipation, and become one with the molecules in the laden air. I was deliciously afraid of all the invisible creeping, crawling dangers inhabiting the luscious ground where I squatted to pee, allowing impulse and need to fully overtake me, inviting all the demons that reside in dark damp hiding places into my most secret self. Not since then has pleasure and fear in the dark been so finely tuned in my mind, except perhaps in moments of passion when all we know is surrendered to the demands of skin and blood. Then the pizzicato of the predictable afternoon shower on that half remembered island, rain every day at four, and her piercing voice, growing nearer, the cutting slash of light. She had caught the boy peeking through a crack at me doing what? She did not want to know. I was sent straight to the bath, as if the delectable stink of danger I had discovered could ever be washed off with plain soap and water.