When I was little, my dad locked me in a closet. We were playing, of course, and the total time Dad held his shoulder against the door was less than fifteen seconds. He must have thought it was fun, and to him, I’m sure it was. But for me, those fifteen seconds stretched into an infinite agony. Not that I thought I’d be purposefully left in there, but in that brief, traumatic time spent in the closet, my mind had concluded the door would forever be closed, that my dad had shut it much too tightly, that the rest of my life would be spent between winter coats.

It’s natural for a child, for whom the world is either one’s oyster or a deadly, malicious thing, to leap to such a conclusion. At least, it was natural for me. When something disappeared from sight, be it the outside world or another person, it was as if it would never come back. Object permanence is supposed to have fully developed in children by the time they’re two. For me, apparently, this came much later, if at all.

Around the time I was locked (if that even is the right word) the closet, we were also momentarily trapped in an elevator. My dad, horsing around again, meant to pantomime opening the doors like an action hero. This must have triggered some sensor, and, though we had arrived at our floor, the elevator hesitated opening. Again, this lasted no more than fifteen seconds, but the same panic I had felt in the closet returned. How were we going to eat, I wondered? What would we drink? Where would we sleep? During these hysterias, I had no conception of fire rescue. All my mind knew was this suffocating square was now my entire world.

I say ‘my mind knew,’ just as I say ‘my mind had concluded’ because that’s what it felt like. A top-down order. There was no point-to-point logic connecting my current predicament to the likely future. Just a sudden wash of realization, the feeling of a cold egg broken over your skull, the slimy, chilly yolk running down your spine. A briar pit in the stomach. The closing of the throat.

If I had sat still and put an ounce of thought into it, it’s doubtful I’d have been so worried, even if my solutions were as childish as my problems: for instance, had I truly been locked in the closet forever, my dad could have slid thin slices of American cheese underneath the door for sustenance. A vent on the elevator’s ceiling would have provided air.

Once these feelings of distress are born, however, it is impossible to explain them out of existence, impossible to shove them back into the small, dark womb. Thus, however much I think I know now, there is still the threat of danger lurking in every disappearance.