Unfortunately I have an excellent imagination. This can be a boon when I read books about people and places I’ve never known as I can place myself in their story. It is a curse, however, when I wake in the night and think I hear sounds of someone breaking in.
One time when I was visiting my parents during my college years, I thought I heard someone outside my window, clawing at the screen, trying to peel it off. I lay there with my heart palpitating for a long time as I pictured him slithering in through the window and killing my family.
I didn’t get out of bed to check as I was too afraid. What if he saw me? Would he shoot me?
I didn’t cry out for similar reasons. What if he heard and then became desperate enough to through caution aside and rip off the screen?
At the time we were living in a grubby house in a low-income neighborhood. We had nothing of value. But a burglar wouldn’t know that, would he?
In the morning I walked the outside of the house looking for evidence. I found massive footprints under each window and places where the paint had been scraped off. With evidence to support my claim, I told my parents. They went outside with me and looked as I pointed out each piece of evidence. They laughed at me.
Shortly after that they moved from southern California back to the SF Bay Area. I was told i8t was due to my dad being unable to find full time work. I didn’t believe the excuse. I was always convinced that they moved out of fear.
On another visit home I discovered that my parents had moved out of the master bedroom in order to let my sister have it. That first night home, I awakened when it was totally dark except for a slight glow from the room creeping in through the curtains.
I heard breathing. I opened my eyes. Not wide open, but only a slit. There, standing at the foot of my bed was a man dressed in flannel shirt and khakis. He stood there for the longest time, doing nothing but watch me. He did not move his arms or shuffle his feet. He was still. And spooky.
Eventually I grew sleepy and must have fallen asleep. When I woke up in the morning, there was no evidence that he had been there. I did check the clothes hanging on the back of the door, but there was no plaid shirt or khakis.
I told my mom what I had seen but she blew it off as my imagination. I can’t blame her as I had proven myself to be an unreliable witness.
Later on I heard her ask both my brother and my dad it either one of them had been in the room. Both of them wore plaid and khakis. Both denied every stepping foot in my room.
There was another time at college when I was sitting at my desk looking out over the campus. It was dark, but the campus lights were on and the building directly across from my room was also lit from within.
Looking down, I became aware of a commotion. Police were moving about, shining flashlights into bushes and along the walls of the buildings. It was intriguing.
For some reason I looked up. On a floor parallel to mine was a man peering out a window. I could clearly see him, so I was certain that he could see me.
He also watched the goings-on down below.
Eventually the police entered that building. I wanted to tell them about the man in the window, but this was before cell phones.
Suddenly I became fearful. What if the man, knowing where I lived, escaped the police and entered my building?
I closed the curtains.
My first roommate was a bit of a character. She was a spoiled rich kid, used to doing whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. She came and went at all hours of the night. Because she didn’t like carrying the room key, she demanded that the door be kept unlocked.
I hated her for that.
It came to a head one night when I woke up and felt something cold by my head. It lay against my arm. It felt like flesh. I held my breath and lay as still as I could. I kept my eyes closed, not wanting the invader to know that I was awake.
I stayed like this for a long, long time. Eventually I convinced myself that it was nothing but imagination. I never got up and turned on the lights.
The next time I saw my roommate, I told her that from then on, the room would be locked.
There are many more instances when my imagination worked overtime. A week ago I got up around two-thirty to use the restroom. When I returned to bed, I heard a noise in the front room. It sounded like someone was opening drawers.
I listened for a long time. I heard similar noises. Tried to convince myself that it was the cat.
Considering my age, I doubt that I will change anytime soon. I know that there will be other instances, other events in which I frighten myself that someone has invaded my territory.
I have learned to stay calm. I use rational talk and soothing words. I stay in bed and keep my breathing steady.
I can do all those things, but I cannot stop my imagination from wandering.