Interview with Maya Burris, author of This is Agoraphobia
The piece I submitted to Pufferfish is an excerpt from a much larger story I’ve been writing for about 4 years. The story is about the general theory of relativity, as I see it apply to people. As Stephen Hawking says in his book, A Brief History of Time, the general theory of relativity is the idea that, 'Space and time are now dynamic quantities: when a body moves, or a force acts, it affects the curvature of space and time- and in turn the structure of spacetime affects the way in which bodies move and forces act. Space and time not only affect but also are affected by everything that happens in the universe' (38). To me, this applies to the universe at large, but also to the worlds that exist in every person, made up of all the people they interact with and all the influence they have on what happens. I think that a lot of people believe that they don't matter in the world. My story, which I currently call ‘Rollerblades’ is about a boy named Lincoln who suffers from agoraphobia and OCD. He experiences the world through the window in his room, and he thinks that he doesn't matter beyond that space. In the story, there’s a girl who rollerblades around the court in front of his house every evening, and eventually Lincoln sees her enough to have her appearance incorporated into his OCD routines. He sees her everyday, and although they never speak, she knows he’s there and quietly acknowledges his presence. One day she stops showing up, and his desire to know what happened to her builds over time until it overcomes his crippling fear to leave his house. He slowly starts his quest to find her, and he meets different people along the way, all of which he’d seen from his window before but never known. The story is told from the perspective of five different characters, and you can see as it progresses all the ways they unwittingly influence each others lives. How the littlest kindness can save someone’s day, or the most nonchalant thoughtlessness can hurt someone deeply. I want people to read my story and to know that they’re an important part of the world. That everything they are, and everything they do affects everything around them.
The chapter I submitted of this story is called ‘This is Agoraphobia’ it describes Lincoln’s first experience with mortality when he’s in middle school, and how frightening the uncertainty of random death is to him. This triggers his fear of leaving his home, the only place where he feels he knows exactly what’s going to happen, and that desire for control is what continues to push his anxiety to form OCD habits to try and make a routine for his life where he’ll never have to guess what’s going to happen next. I chose this piece to submit because I felt that it stood alone as a strong piece on irrational fears and how they develop. I liked that it kept the narrator’s gender and name unknown, because if felt like it gave a more general relatability to the story."
I might not communicate all that in the story I put into Pufferfish, but I hope that the people who read it at least feel a solidarity with Lincoln. Those who know how it feels to be afraid of what comes next, who’ve had panic attacks and not known what to do, who’ve sometimes wanted to lock themselves away. I think the best way to understand your own problems is to see the other people who have them. To know you’re not alone. Once you’re someone else’s support in helping them see that they’ll be okay, it’s a lot easier to believe that the same is true for you.
To learn more about Maya, This is Agoraphobia, and her writing, join us at the release of The First Edition of Pufferfish Magazine, in which she is featured, Saturday, April 30th at 310 E. Washington St. (see Facebook event for more details)