A long time ago I had a girlfriend who was afraid of heights. We were up on the observation deck of a tall building when she told me. I was quick to sympathize. I explained that I’d once tried to help some friends paint the roof of their barn, that I’d spent the entire afternoon sliding down the incline an inch at a time, paralyzed, imagining what would happen when I fell over the edge. She said, “I’m not afraid of falling, I’m afraid of jumping.”

I think I understood that. She wasn’t suicidal, just uncomfortable with the idea that her survival depended on her staying sane and rational, not most of the time, not even 99.999% of the time, but all of the time. It was the last 0.001% that worried her.

Over the years I’ve told a few friends about her, and they all seemed to understand too. But I stopped dating her, a little while after that.

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