A long time ago … in another city … with another partner … with what feels like a different me … someone pounded on our front door at 3am, screaming for help. At the time, I slept in the nude (I said it was a different me, alright?), so it took me a few seconds to groggily wake up and throw on some clothes. As I did, my girlfriend ran to the door to see what was going on. I heard her open the door, and I paused to hear what was going on. At some point I realized that I wasn’t just pausing to hear what was going on, though — I was hiding in fear. My heart was racing, and hearing our new guest (a neighbor we’d never met) describe how her drunk boyfriend had cracked her head open kept my flight response really high. Eventually my girlfriend summoned me and i sheepishly came out of my hiding spot. “Fredoluv,” she asked. “Can you run in her house and grab her purse?” “The front door is open,” the neighbor added, “you just have to grab my stuff off the coffee table.”
I nodded quietly, and walked outside. I looked at the house. The front door was open, and light was pouring out of it giving the scene an eerie Gregory Crewdson feel. I stood staring for a bit, I couldn’t will myself to enter. I didn’t realize that I was in full view of my girlfriend and the neighbor, and eventually the neighbor rushed past me, ran in her house and emerged with her purse. No one said anything as I quietly returned, and I don’t even remember what happened after that.
I played those events out in my head over and over again for weeks. I became obsessed with my reaction to danger, how paralyzed I had been, and how scared I still felt long later. Eventually, my brain paired that event with a home burglary that happened to us soon after, and I developed a major panic disorder. I couldn’t sleep, I constantly worried about our house being threatened and whether I’d be able to protect myself or my girlfriend. I kept a hammer by my side of the bed, the only “weapon” we had. After awhile, I went on some meds and learned to cope a bit. I feel very different now, and know that when we hear noises at night that I’m the first to check things out — my flight or fight impulse has really switched to fight mode as I’ve gotten older and settled into family life.
This weekend I finally watched “Force Majeure,” a visually stunning film that deals with the aftermath of a similar flight or fight response, with my wife. I’ve wanted to see it for a bit, but blew my chance to see it in the theater (I really regret that now, it’s really beautiful to look at) and needed to sync our schedules a bit for a time that worked for the wife. I really liked the film, and am drawn to watching it again — I read a review somewhere that remarked on its black comedy elements, and admit that if there was black comedy happening then it totally flew over my head. My wife and I bickered a bit throughout, in a really good way. I couldn’t help but be a little defensive of the central conflict of the film — you never know how you’ll react in a situation, I’d argue, despite my wife’s firm pronouncements that neither of us would have the same response. As much as I felt like I could relate to the patriach’s flight response, however, I was frustrated by his resolute refusal to own his actions. For me, that was the more damning character flaw, that his false masculinity was unable to allow him to get a toehold on any sort of proper response to original action or his family’s needs thereafter. Really great performances all around, a ton of striking images, and I loved hearing the scene revisited through so many direct tellings and analogous depictions. I need to learn how to end these entries a little better — I never know when to press on for a 1000 word essay or just give a Thumbs Up!