Scared Out of My Wits

I’m not one of those people who is easily scared. Not at all. A horror film will do it, for sure, but mostly, I’m pretty calm and measured. However, since living alone, I’ve noticed an increased tendency to be a little jumpier. I’m still not a scaredy-cat, but I think the heightened awareness of the fact that I am by myself just leads me to be a little more….cautious.

Probably you know, but I have two bathrooms in my house. One up–that I use, and one down–that hardly gets used. Then, when “summer” finally hit, I realized that the lower bathroom was a perfect pool bathroom. I keep extra stuff down there and I come in and hop in the shower, strip off my suit and leave it hanging there. It works great. No mess, no fuss.

With all this heat, I’ve been living at/in the pool for three days. And I wonder how I made it 32 years without a pool, but that’s another story. Yesterday, I had a mini-party, with my parents, my sister and Ario, and Kelly, Mark and the kids. It was so much fun.

When we all wound down, we gathered up the toys and headed home. My parents’ dropped me and the equipment off and they left. I put things away and went inside to take my shower. First, before even getting in, I had to fix the door. It came off the track and it was a disaster. I finally, after swearing, sweating, and steaming, managed to get it back in place. Then I started up the shower and stepped in. I ditched my suit and rinsed it well.

Then I started in on my hair. Now, a while back, Lisa convinced me that shampooing too often is bad for your hair. So now I only wash my hair every couple of days. Which is fine. But now that I swim, daily, I have to wash it, usually two or more times a day, just to keep the chlorine out. I figure in a fight between shampoo and chlorine as to which is worse for my hair, chlorine will win every day of the week.

Okay, so I’m standing under the cool spray and I’m washing my hair for the second time…I have my eyes closed and my head tilted back. Then, suddenly, something wet grabs my arm. Before I can grasp what is happening, something heavy hits me on the head.

I whip my eyes open, shampoo starts running in them and they’re burning. I start to scream as I am frantically pawing at whatever is grabbing at me. I can’t see, but something is wrapped around my arm and something is on my head. I can’t think, I don’t know what the hell is happening and I start crying.

Dramatic, I know.

I’m not much of a crier in these types of situations, but I was in the shower, naked, is it even possible to feel any more vulnerable?

Fortunately, in my panic, I managed to turn around. Between getting my face in the spray and the tears, my eyes rinsed out and I could see; though it was blurred.

I was still hopping around in the shower, like a maniac, when something struck me on the shoulder. Finally, I focused my eyes enough to see what was happening.

I was not, as previously feared, under attack by a deranged monster, but I was instead, under attack by my ceiling.

Yes, oh yes, my popcorn ceiling chose that exact moment to peel away and fall.

Literally, large strips of popcorn ceiling goo, were falling into the shower, all over my body. The first was the largest, it hit me in the arm and it was so gooey that it stuck there. That was what freaked me the most. You can’t imagine the texture (unless you’ve actually felt the texture of damp, moist, popcorn ceiling) and with my eyes closed, it still gives me the chills, just thinking about it.

Then, of course, a chunk striking me on top of the head didn’t really help matters.

I finally got calmed down and scraped the goo off of my body. Then I stepped away from the patch and shampooed my hair, again, to get it all out. I kept my eyes open and stared at that patch the entire time. The floor of my shower is covered with that crap, I’ve yet to clean it up.

I also didn’t think to take a picture of the patch of ceiling where the popcorn ripped away, but my best guess is that, roughly a 12-inch diameter circle is left on the ceiling. That’s a fair sized mess. Made more so my the terror it instilled in me.

My heartbeat has finally returned to average.

And the best part? Just another home repair job, looming on the horizon. Lucky Dad.

Tale of Terror

It was just before 7:00 when I got home from work. I still have trouble with it being daylight…it tricks me into believing it is earlier in the afternoon.

I was so hungry my stomach was growling. I gathered up the armfuls of things from my car; winter coat, four library books, lunch bucket, purse, bottle of water and muscled my way into the house. I was mentally debating the merits of cooking versus reheating uninspiring leftovers.

As I stood in the entry hall and began to unload, my body registered something unusual.

It was cold.

Chillingly cold.

Roughly 25 degrees cold.

It took longer than I’m willing to admit for my brain to catch up. Something is not right.

Without further hesitation, I dumped everything from arms unceremoniously onto the floor. No thought, no care for anything delicate, I just dropped and let it land.

I moved immediately toward the family room, mentally crossing my fingers that my furnace wasn’t broken. If it was, well, even a simple fix was beyond me, because, honestly, I wasn’t paying that close of attention when my dad was explaining how it worked.

As I stepped through the door, I saw the problem at once.

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Unfortunately, I hadn’t been home since 9:00 that morning and I know–I KNOW that door was closed when I left. I thought it was locked.

I stood stock still for a few seconds letting my brain digest what my disbelieving eyes were seeing.

I then fled back into the hall and dropped to my knees in front of my scattered belongings. I had only one goal in mind, find my cell phone!

Once I had it in hand, (after far too frantic a search in which I am quite certain I touched it three or four times without realizing it) I felt immensely better. I stood up, because, somehow, it made me feel better.

I took a couple deep breaths and weighed my options.

1. Leave

2. Call the police

3. Call my dad

4. Call Tom Martell (he’s closer than my dad by about 3-4 minutes)

5. Deal with it

Then, when my brain hit 5, I started having flashes of every terrible horror film I’ve ever seen. Always, each and every time, the idiot heroine goes deeper into the house where the terrorizing killer is lying in wait and I’m always screaming at the screen “you idiot! don’t go inside!” because how could anyone possibly be that foolish?

Which is how I can’t possibly understand what happened next.

I inched my way toward the doorway of the family room, silently. I was listening to my house, straining to hear even the slightest sound that was out of place. My mind was swirling with thoughts; my garage door is SO loud, he must know I am inside. If I leave, he’ll hear the garage door again and might come after me. I wonder how long he’s been inside? QUIT being an idiot! There’s no one inside your house.

Pretty much all that an more was careening around the walls of my brain, trying to be the thought that won the battle. Then it struck me. My mom’s Bose was still sitting on the shelf, mere feet from the door.

I could see it.

It was just sitting there. And I breathed a little easier. It was okay. Obviously if someone broke in, they’d grab that first, right?

I don’t care if it makes sense or not. It gave me courage.

I half-ran across the room to the fireplace and grabbed the poker, fulfilling a lifelong goal of pretending I actually live in a movie. (Really? Don’t they always grab fireplace tools for protection?)

Once I had the poker in hand, I reached over and swung the door shut. (I actually opened it up again later and took the picture…for effect. I did not stop to take a picture of the open door while I believed some maniac was in my house). Then, with my back to the fireplace and the sturdy poker in hand, I tried to calm myself before searching my house.

Then, inspiration struck. I still had my cell phone in hand, so I did this:

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(That is a screenshot of my phone about three minutes after I realized what I should do).

I dialed 911 and kept my thumb right over that big green button, the whole time. That way, even if someone attacked me, I believed I could call the cops before getting killed with a gun or something. And, I’ll just note that I really couldn’t stop thinking about how my brother Zack kept saying that “South Maplewood” was a scary neighborhood when I bought my house. He was kidding, but I was pretty scared.

So, I headed into the laundry room to check it. As I got to the doorway I thought “which way do I turn my body to sweep the room without getting shot?” You know, like they do on tv…I might have been a little hysterical.

All clear.

I repeated the process for the bathroom and the playroom.

Both clear.

I started feeling better, calmer, more rational. I even thought to myself that if it was a ghost I could get him with my iron poker, just like Dean and Sam do.

For some reason, I had convinced myself that the threat was downstairs.

Still, I crept up the stairs, silently.

No one in the living room, kitchen was clear. Porch was still locked.

I opened the door and looked inside the fridge. I don’t know why, I just did. (Go ahead, laugh. Today, it seems hilarious).

I went toward my bathroom. I looked behind the shower curtain. My bedroom was clear, I opened the closet doors, sharp end first.

Once I had checked the entire upstairs and knew, beyond a doubt, that my house was all clear, I went in to my bedroom and sort-of, well, collapsed on the bed.

I was still gripping the poker in my right hand, and my left thumb was still poised over that all-important green button. It was okay. I was safe.

I started laughing a little, because I may have been a bit over the top, but, heck, if there was ever a time for “better safe than sorry” surely this was it.

When I passed the mirror in the bathroom downstairs, I caught a glimpse of myself and I looked like a slightly less-exaggerated version of this:

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I was pretty scared there for a minute. But my trusty poker was a great comfort.

In fact, I’d been toying with the idea of getting rid of that poker because it is so ugly. But now, I will likely bronze the damn thing and make sure it lives a long and fruitful life of ease and comfort.

I know I’m making light, but I was really pretty scared when it dawned on me that the door was wide open in my house. After a moment’s levity and the above photo, I headed downstairs to take care of things. I checked the back door and the handle was locked. My guess: it just wasn’t shut tightly and with the high winds yesterday, it blew open. Simple as that.

There was snow all over the carpet (that doesn’t show in the photo) and I now have towels on the floor to absorb the excess moisture. I shut and locked the door…including the deadbolt. Usually that door is always locked, in fact, it has only been opened a handful of times since I moved in. But, during my birthday party on Saturday, people were smoking out there and I got a little careless. I never checked to make sure it was secure. I guess I learned my lesson.

I cleaned up the game that was strewn about (which rightly should have been cleaned up on Sunday…) and tried to salvage the cards that were covered in snow. I gave my poker a little kiss and set him back in his cradle. I’ve named him Bernard. It means strong and brave.

Then I went back into the hall to gather up my belongings.

By this time, it was 7:15 pm and reheated leftovers won the debate because, frankly, they are just quicker.