Dear Diary,

I’ve been afraid of a lot of things in my lifetime—spiders, heights, Jason Vorhees, the under-the-bed clown in Poltergeist, drinking out of my toddlers’ used cups, jolting myself awake while snoring on a plane, inadvertently swallowing bugs while I’m sleeping—the list goes on. The thing is, it’s usually pretty easy to recognize when I’m afraid. But I’m just starting to understand this particular fear.

(And it’s not my health again, I promise. You’ve all heard enough of that already.)

I’m so afraid of spiders, I can only post a spider-less web.

It’s my memoir.

It’s Hurricane Lessons.

You’ve heard of it, right? Of course you have. I’ve been talking about it for the past seven years. SEVEN YEARS. I mean, some people just naturally take that amount of time to write a book. And I fully support their process. But that’s not me. I write quickly, and then I edit intensely. The first draft of my memoir was done within six months. But the editing? That’s been a good six and a half years. I can’t tell you which draft I’m working on now. It’s definitely closer to the 20th than it is to the 1st.

I don’t have any trouble drafting up these little tell-alls and sharing them with the world. I was a blogger before bloggers were cool.

But this story. It’s a big one. And I want to get it right. When it comes out into the world, it’s going to be divisive. I can tell you that right now. Some people will use the word “brave” to describe me. Others will use words like “selfish asshole” and “reckless bitch.”

Add that second set of words to the overall list of things that scare me.

It’s not like I haven’t been called all those things before. I have. Mostly by my ex-husband during our very volatile divorce. He also called me the “c” word, but I’m such a prude, I can barely even think about it, let alone type it.

It shouldn’t matter what strangers think about me, but it does. I have this innate need to be understood. That’s probably why I’m a writer.

These past few weeks while I’ve been hunkered down recovering from surgery and resting my knee, I’ve been working diligently on my memoir—killing “my darlings,” rearranging the order of my scenes, re-imagining my story arc, adding brand new pages to the whole mess.

I think it’s ready to go out to agents. But I’m still afraid to send it. And I’m afraid to let anyone else look at it because everyone has opinions, and their opinions get all tangled up with mine, and then I get paralyzed, and I have to start the whole process over again because I take on the belief that no amount of words I write in my lifetime will ever be good enough to see the light of day.

Welcome to my brain.

It’s scary, right? And it never stops. I doubt, second-guess, double-back, and do it all over again. I wish I was someone who could say, Fuck it! This is GOOD and someone will see that it’s good! But instead, I call sweet Rachel (Macy Stafford) who always reassures me, and I ask for reassurance. And come on… she’s got better things to do with her time.

So, here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to share a small piece of my memoir here with you today. “A snippet” as my adorable mom would have said. If you like it, if you hate it, if you’d prefer I let Sissy eat the pages, I’d love to hear it all. It will give Rachel a little break. 

Love,

Katrina

P.S. The excerpt is below. I changed my catalyst’s name because I’m not yet sure whether I should change it in the book. And for those of you who don’t know what a catalyst is, she’s the person in your life you made you realize you were NOT straight.

~ ~ ~

© 2024

On one of our final adventures together, before everything inevitably began to crack at the seams, I visited Catherine’s apartment in New York City—a glorious, whirlwind forty-eight hours of a blue-sky weekend. When she threw open her window to introduce the city below, I first noticed the rust on the fire escape, the place where she’d posted online pictures the week before, the place where she’d slid easily into her new home, silkily, diaphanously.

I’ve always been embarrassingly afraid of heights.

“It’s a physical reaction,” I say to everyone who will listen, because I often feel an obsessive need to explain myself, to set the stage according to my own artistic vision. “Sweaty palms, full-body shaking. If my heart doesn’t give in, I’m worried my balance will. Balance is something that matters when you’re on the top of a precipice.”

But I’m drawn to the dizzying summits, too—the rush, the challenge, the breathlessness.

Then I saw the drop below the rust. Four stories down, dirty concrete, luxury cars, bins of trash waiting to be collected.

Ten feet is a fatal fall, I heard my mother say in my head.

“Go on,” Catherine said. “Get out there. Don’t be a pussy.”

Then that crooked smile, half-wicked, half-kind. Half-endearing, half-terrifying. All breathtaking.

As I stepped out of the open window, the rust was rough on my bare feet, on my newly minted city blister. I wrapped my toes around the balcony rails, vaguely afraid of tetanus, but clinging, clinging, as if ten toes could save me from the drop.

As if anything could save me from this inevitability.

I stood, shaking, the hot night breeze wafting around me, lifting my shirt, and tossing my hair. Life bustled below, lovers fighting, shouts of fuck you and no fuck you, cars honking, flecks of decade-old paint and the detritus of harsh seasons—sun, wind, snow, rain—making the four story journey down to the street below, loosened by my wary, shaking bare feet.

“It’s gorgeous,” I said, blinking in the city lights, looking out but not down.

“Isn’t it?” she said—a statement more than a question—stepping out to sit beside me. “There’s the Empire State Building,” she said, pointing.

Then she leaned in to kiss me, grabbing my ponytail, hard, and an electric jolt shot down my spine. I touched her face, the cottony softness familiar to my fingertips. I had felt it before, had missed and craved and desired it again. Her tongue was warm, my breath short. And when we parted, I noticed first the curve of her stunning smile, then the fleck of rust my hand had left on her face. I brushed it away gently, watched it begin its fall, four stories, down to Howard Street.

When I married my husband twenty-two years prior, we went to the Sierra Nevadas for our honeymoon. I was so excited about the gorgeous hiking, the great outdoors, the breathtaking views. I neglected to consider the correlation between mountains and the inevitable heights we would encounter.

We went hiking in Yosemite on our second day, jeans and sweatshirts and sturdy boots purchased just for the occasion. On our way to our intended waterfall view, we kept climbing up, up, up. Then we turned a corner on a path barely wide enough to walk side-by-side, and a dizzying drop—accompanied by a gorgeous view—was at our toes.

I plastered myself up against the mountain wall, shaking, crying, unable to move forward or back.

“Come on, Kat,” my new husband said. “Hold my hand and close your eyes. I’ll get you past this.”

I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t function at any semi-reasonable level.

“Just go,” I whispered. “Leave me here. I can’t do it. I can’t.”

“Honey, don’t be ridiculous. I just married you. I’m not going to leave you on the side of a mountain in California.”

I often wonder now if he regretted not leaving me there that day. If his life would have been easier if he’d just hiked back down the mountain, leaving me to figure out my own fate. But somehow, some way, he got me back to the safety of flat land and then to the Napa wineries where I drank away any lingering fear.

And this memory—this honeymoon recollection—lodged in my brain as I watched that fleck of rust fall to the earth.

The two people I loved most in the world—one possibly willing to let me fall, to maybe even give me a push. The other—who I was convinced would never.

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4 Responses

  1. First time commenting although I have been reading your posts for years. For what it is worth, I think your writing is so real, so descriptive, so heartfelt. This is good! Just believe.

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