17 December, 2009

Why I can't sleep at night

I am a visual person with a vivid imagination. This can be a good thing. Being good at art, writing stories, lying... you know- life skills. But this power can be a terrible, terrible burden for certain terrible, terrible things I've had to endure while growing up. Like the rite of passage of watching horror movies. Shudder.

Horror movies. I hate them. I cannot bear witness to any book, television show, or movie that has any element of horror. Not even a little bit. Not even if it's in a commercial. It might actually be worse if it is a commercial, because you're not expecting it. There's this one ADT Security System commercial that depicts a man breaking into seemingly safe house one seemingly carefree afternoon as the homeowner is playing in the backyard with her daughter. Not only do I not have any sort of security system installed in my apartment, but now I have to be prepared for people who break in during the daylight hours too? Great. Awesome.

Over the years I've tried to cure myself of this affliction through over-exposure, persuading myself that the more horror movies I watch the less real they will become. Voilá- cured. But really the effect is less freeing on my psyche and more debilitating on my social life. I've seen the CSI's. I know that my odds of going out on a "normal" Friday night will probably end in fear, destruction, and death. I am a single white female, and I am a target. I never realized that there were so many different ways to be hurt, stalked, and dismembered. Thank you, prime time cable programming.

That's the thing with horror movies- regardless of which ones I watch the takehome message has always been that I will, most likely, be next. Single female. Target. Take, for example, the movie Halloween H20.

Let me set the scene: it was Casey Ferriter's 6th grade birthday party. Ten little girls were having a sleepover in her basement. There was cake, popcorn, and horror, as supplied by the scary movies her mom had rented for us because we were now adults. Or something.

Halloween H20 is the Jamie Lee Curtis movie where her brother, Michael Meyers, is unhinged. Therefore he kills people. And he doesn't just kill them, he slays them in such fantastically creative and gory ways as hockey skate to face. Ouch, that's real. Because of an excessive amount of childhood pride (which I must have lost somewhere along the ride) I watched the entire movie. It has haunted me ever since.

I don't even remember the plot anymore. I am fairly confident my mind must have blocked out most of the scenes in self-protection. But I do remember this one school scene where Michael Meyers lowered himself down by one arm from a pipe in a school hallway right behind a (single white) girl, who was either totally oblivious or deaf. (Spoiler alert: she dies).

First of all, the kind of muscle it takes to lower your entire body down like that is ridiculous. The core strength alone! But then you get to thinking about the take home points. How many hallways do I walk down on a daily basis? How many have pipes? Far too many.

After this movie, I avoided staying at my school past dark. Way too risky, even though I'm pretty sure the character Michael Meyers died in two of the movies preceding Halloween H20. Michael Meyer's terrifying strength is only overshadowed by his apparent inability to die.

And so I vowed to steer clear of horror movies (and move back into my twin sister's bedroom because of a newfound fear of closets). Years passed, and I was happy, save for the occasional lone walk down a hallway. Then I hit college. I was a little older, a little wiser, and my friend Thatcher convinced me that I should watch the first Saw film. He claimed it was an "interesting piece, psychologically" (as opposed to the merciless gore I thought it to be). We watched it in the student center early in the evening. Admittedly, it was interesting. But inevitably there came a point when I had to return home. Alone. That's where the trouble began.

I was scared that someone would jump out at me, even though I was on a bike. Would I be able to pedal away fast enough? I was kind of out of shape. Like in the movie, what if someone had been watching my every move to wait to abduct me? Never mind that I'm no longer a little girl, I still feel Stranger Danger at every situation. What was that person doing, walking behind me? Walking to the snackbar? A likely story. They are probably waiting until I turn my back to capture me. Happens all the time. I've seen the movies.

So I had to call my boyfriend Dan to walk all the way across campus to get me, so that he could walk me back. Even then, in the relative security of Dan's company, I questioned his true intentions. Could he really be trusted? What if this past year has been a façade, and he's just been biding his time? What if he snapped suddenly, a product of an undetected brain aneurysm? Wouldn't be the first time it has happened; there was an episode on CSI about this. And all this about a boy I loved, because I do not handle the separation of fact and fiction when it comes to horror movies. Curse you, imagination. Go do something useful.

During my senior year of college I moved into an old fraternity house. I chose a room with a fire escape, or as I liked to think of it, a personal metallic balcony. It had a view of the forest and keypad access so I could never get locked out. I probably might have enjoyed it more if other people, too, could be locked out. But criminals are smart, and I wouldn't have put it past anyone to break into a 9-digit keypad. I'd been known to crack a few in my day. I also might have liked the room more if my mom didn't constantly remind me to keep my windows locked at all times because someone could sneak in and wait for me til I got home. But this is assuming that the only criminals that go after me are ones that can afford to wait a few hours for me. That's already saying something. Though I didn't always lock my windows (you can't box me in!) when I came home I always punched in my keycode with my body halfway out the door, ready to flee at the first glimpse of an unfamiliar arm or leg.

My mom doesn't really help the situation. There will be times when I will be happy-go-luckying down the street, not a care in the world, when mom calls me to tell me to "be careful." It will inevitably be at night, and I will be walking alone.

Mom: "Where are you?"
Me: "I'm out heading over to Jen's house."
Mom: "Why are you going to Jen's?"
Me: "...to hang out. For funzies."
Mom: "Ok, don't stay out late. Where are you now?"
Me: "Just got onto Hanover."
Mom: "Are you almost there? Stay on the line."
Me: "No, Mom. I'm cool, I gotta go..."
Mom: "Ok, but send a text when you get there. Are there other people around?"
Me: (No.) "Yes, of course."
Mom:"Ok good. Stay on the main road. Text me when you get in. I love you."

The "I love you" might as well be "We'll never forget you. God bless." Stay on the main road clearly means "there is a psycho pacing 100 yards behind you waiting 'til you turn down a deserted road." She might even tell me about a recent assault spree involving a man targeting women in my city. He could be anywhere. He could be on the street. He is probably right behind me. I'm not normally a fearful person, but there are times when I do not want inuendos or ideas put into my head. For I am impressionable.

By the time I actually get to where I was going, I have most likely freaked myself out so much with all the various things that could have happened on the walk that my keys are already in position between my knuckles in case I need to defend myself (thanks, self-defense class!). I pound on the door manically, and pray for the person to come quicker.  Has someone been watching me, mapping out my daily life patterns of times when I get home from work? Should I change up my normal paths? Should I leave my light on to make it seem like someone is always home? Can Jen defend me if need be? What if Jen is actually evil? Horror movies are terrible.

My mom hates that I can't just get to and stay in my apartment after it gets dark. But I'm a Massachusetts girl, and pleasing her in that way would require being locked into my apartment by as early as 4pm in the wintertime. And summer's not for another 6 months. Is that a life, really? But I suppose that doing so would mean I would get to watch a lot more television (so long as it's not scary). The good news is that I can be assured that there aren't strange men in my apartment, because sometimes I can barely get the door unlocked with the right key. And my apartment has no hallways.

So there are a few pluses. But I'm definitely going to wait at least a few more months before I start watching CSI again. At least until it's sunny after 6pm.