Monday, April 11, 2011

NOT AFRAID OF THE DARK...MUCH

When my husband recently spent nearly a week in the hospital, I was forced to do something I’d never done before…stay alone in the house.

I honestly thought I’d be brave. When we were first married, my husband used to go away for a week or two at a time for job training, and I had no problem with it. That, however, was because our neighbors lived so close, I could hear them brushing their teeth at night.

At our new house, however, our neighbors are all so far away, if they were outside shooting off a cannon, I still wouldn’t hear them.

I soon realized just how dark and scary living out in the middle of the woods can be…and just how much my imagination can run wild.

The first night, I got home from the hospital at about 10. The automatic garage door opened and I drove into the garage. Then I hit the remote control and watched, in my rearview mirror, the door slowly close behind me.

Instead of feeling safe, I suddenly felt terrified. What, I wondered, would have stopped someone or something really creepy from crawling under the door just before it closed? Who or what might be lurking in the garage, just waiting for me to get out of the car?

It didn’t even dawn on me that if something had tried to slither underneath the door, the door’s anti-crushing sensor would have automatically opened it again. No, I was too busy imagining some drooling, wild-eyed murderer hiding behind the trash barrel.

So I stayed in the car and frantically searched for a weapon. The only thing I found was a dog leash. I thought maybe I could use it as a whip…or a noose.

And then it happened. The light that automatically pops on whenever the garage door opens, popped off. I was sitting in total darkness. I knew the only way I’d be able to light my way into the house would be to open the garage door again, but I didn’t want to risk opening it to an awaiting axe murderer. I thought about turning on the car’s headlights, walking over to the light switch on the garage wall and turning on the overhead light, then turning off the headlights.

“Oh, just be brave and make a dash for the door!” I told myself. “Stop being such a big chicken!”

I finally opened the car door, which made the interior light in the car pop on, so I was able to see a little of the garage. Every shadow in there seemed to be moving. Clutching my weapon (a.k.a. the dog’s leash), I eased out of the car and walked a few steps away from it. Then I extended my leg and used it to shove the car door shut, which threw me into instant darkness.

I felt my way up the two steps to the side door of the house, frantically searched for the keyhole, unlocked the door and bolted inside. I slammed the door shut and leaned against it, breathing a sigh of relief.

Almost immediately I realized I’d left my handbag out in the car. At that point, even if it had a roll of $100 bills and a winning lottery ticket stuffed into it, I wouldn’t have gone back out to the garage to get it. I was inside the house, safe and sound, and planned to stay there.

But, I suddenly wondered, was I really safe?

Something I’d heard on TV a few days before instantly sprang to mind. A police officer had said if you own a dog that usually greets you at the door but you come home some night and the dog doesn’t greet you, you should turn around and head right back outside because it could mean a burglar has silenced the dog and is hiding inside.

Well, I have two dogs and neither one greeted me, which was strange. Usually, the minute I set foot in the door, I am attacked by two furry bodies that smother me with sloppy kisses (no, one of them isn’t my husband).

I had left a light on in the living room, so I peeked around the corner of the kitchen doorway and saw both dogs lying on the rug. I stifled a gasp. They were so still! Had they, I wondered, been fed drug-laced meatballs by some crook who, at that very moment, was rifling through my underwear drawer?

I carefully made my way through the kitchen and into the living room, flipping on every light switch I came to as I did. When I reached the living room, both dogs looked up at me as if to say, “Oh? You finally decided to come home?” Then they both yawned and fell back to sleep.

I felt somewhat reassured that their ho-hum attitude meant there was no burglar hiding underneath my bed. So I headed down to the bedroom to change into my comfy sweatpants.

All I can say is living in a house that has 15 doors can be pretty scary when you’re all alone at night. Every time I passed a door, I had the eerie feeling someone or something was standing behind it and was going to jump out and grab me. Unfortunately I had to pass six doors just to get to the closet…and my sweatpants.

The good thing about having a walk-in closet is I can fit tons of stuff in it. The bad thing about having one is it easily could hide a small army of thugs. I grasped the closet door’s handle and hesitated. Was something other than my ratty old clothing and boxes of junk waiting for me on the other side? Something breathing, perhaps?

At that very moment, the phone rang. I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was my husband, calling to see if I’d made it home safely.

“I’m fine,” I said, in a voice that was slightly higher pitched than usual. “Um, by the way, you know that gun you use for skeet shooting? Is it loaded?”

“My shotgun?” he asked. “No, why?”

“Oh, just curious, that’s all. By the way, where do you keep it?”

“In the walk-in closet.”

I rolled my eyes and muttered something incoherent under my breath.

I did manage to survive the nights alone while my husband was in the hospital. All I had to do was turn on every light in the house, sit with a rottweiler on each side of me and a Ginsu knife in my lap, and not go to bed until the sun came up.

Simple.

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