“You can’t live your whole life in fear!” the old man said, shaking his fist.

But of course he knew that wasn’t true. Way down deep within his brain, on a level he would never actually acknowledge. It was a simple fact that he iced out the way he and his drinking buddies could get anyone they decided didn’t belong taken out of the bar.

The old man was afraid all the time, and always had been.

He was afraid of anyone darker than him which meant he was afraid of most people. He saw them all as threats to his home, his job, his well-being, even if they were simply driving in the other direction. Even if they were on the television, in a completely different country that historically had exactly zero bearing on his own.

He was afraid of a lot of white people, too, because you could never fully trust that another white person was as afraid of darker people as they should be. Hell, when the time finally came they would probably help bring him down!

He was afraid of people who thought they were smarter than him.

He was afraid that they were right.

He was afraid that those people who thought they were smarter than him would find out that he was afraid of them and use that to their advantage.

He was afraid they would take his guns. He had thirty-six of them, displayed lovingly on the wall of his basement. He used exactly two of them, to target shoot in his backyard.

He was afraid of trans people and drag queens, but the fact that he didn’t know why was buried even deeper than the fear itself. They turned his stomach. Made him want to puke. Made him nervous for his kids, always glancing around in public looking for them. The neighbor’s boy had begun transitioning the year before and he was a great kid. This fact had not interacted with his general fear of trans people a single time.

He was afraid the government would tax him into homelessness, which is why he had sent most of his retirement savings to the political party of his choice.

He was afraid of the government in general.

He was afraid of the usual conspiracies. They were controlling everything. They were coming for him and his family simply because they were white. They would force a civil war and the shooting would really start and he would fuck it up somehow and his family would end up in some sort of camp.

He was afraid that all of his conspiracy theories were completely made up. He was afraid he didn’t actually have a secret insight to the way the world worked and he was just paranoid. He was afraid the people telling him these conspiracies were real were simply stealing money from him.

He was afraid if the people who believed these conspiracies with him discovered his fear that they were all wrong, they would shun him and he would be even more alone than he already was.

He was sure he was a good Christian and would go to heaven, but he was still afraid he was going to hell for reasons he’d never discover before he was burning.

He was afraid of the disease and also afraid of the vaccine and also afraid of not getting the vaccine because he was scared of it and then getting the disease and dying while he watched vaccinated people continue to live like normal.

The old man was afraid all the time. But he’d been afraid all the time, his entire life, and so it doesn’t even register. It is the normal. It is the way everyone feels, he thinks.

“You can’t live your whole life in fear!” the old man said, shaking his fist at the couple wearing masks in the grocery store.

They ignore him, and that makes him afraid, too.

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