Or perhaps it is more simple.

Perhaps it is merely worry which like waiting, fixes the worrier in the present, trapped in that impossible story, that unsettling narrative where "the worst thing that could happen is more comforting than the unimaginable thing."1 Waiting for and worrying about that empty signifier, the stranger.

But these are flights of imagination, mere slippages of possibility, of possible catastrophe: "flirting with possibilities we are both the hunter and the hunted."2 For Phillips "worrying implies a future, a way of looking forward to things. It is a conscious conviction that a future exists, one in which something terrible might happen, which is, of course ultimately true ... by binding us to the present and the future, it abolishes the past that is, so to speak, behind this particular piece of worrying, that existed prior to its appearance as a preoccupation. It seals time by encapsulating a sequence. When we worry, we look forward but are not tempted to look very far back ."3
A woman is standing on a street corner, waiting for a stranger. For the writer, the worry is immediate, the possibility is narrative failure. The stranger is still nowhere to be seen, an invention that perhaps we ourselves are reticent to narrativise, lest it brings about closure or completion. However, the stranger, as McAfee reminds us, "presents an opportunity, not an abyss. By being shaken loose from the they, this self sees the radical strangeness of others as the continual possibility for being a subject, a split subject whose mirror is always partial. Without completion, possibility thrives."4 While the stranger is nowhere to be seen only the present exists collapsing into a worst case scenario [the stranger will not come and her waiting will never end]. In imagining this, her body is tense. An expression she has heard too many times crosses her mind.

Don't worry, it may never happen.

That's what I'm worried about ...

Notes

1. Adam Phillips, 'Worrying and its Discontents' in Adam Phillips, On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored, Faber and Faber, London, 1993, p 41

2. ibid., p 54

3. ibid., p 56

4. Noelle McAfee, 'Abject Strangers: Toward and Ethics of Respect' in Kelly Oliver (ed), Ethics, Politics and Difference in Julia Kristeva's Writing: A Collection of Essays, Routledge, London, 1993, p 132