Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Life Of Crime Part II.......Things That Go Bump In The Night

As I’ve mentioned before, I rent a room in a neighborhood called Altagracia. It’s a simple room with two doors (one that opens to the inside of the house…….one to the street), a bathroom (no door there.....good thing I live alone), and a small window. The window is approximately 12” X 24”, is located just below the ceiling, and is covered only with bars on the outside (better at keeping out PEOPLE than mosquitoes, bright lights, or the ungodly decibels of the #54 bus). Directly below the window is the V-shaped mattress on which I sleep. Between the bed and the window is a small ledge. Because I have no closet or place to hang clothing in my rented paradise, this ledge below the window works quite nicely. As a result, when in their rightful place, the clothes dangle a mere 12-14” above my snoring profile.

Because I was planning a small excursion to Granada the following day with some folks from the neighborhood, I called it a night at the early hour of 10PM. After all, I wanted to make sure I received ample beauty sleep, something I can certainly use more of. The first hour of sleep was a bit light, interrupted on several occasions by housemates returning home from a night on the town. By 12AM however, I was sleeping like a baby, dreaming no doubt of Spanish beauties and eternal beach fiestas. But it was also around the 12 o’ clock hour that things took an unexpected turn.

The first thing to come was an unusual sound. It wasn’t a particularly LOUD sound, just unfamiliar. To be quite honest, I’m not exactly sure WHAT my subconscious mind registered as the source of such a strange noise. But the second event came in the form of something much greater than a sound. The second event was an object. To be entirely accurate, I should add that it wasn’t simply AN object but SEVERAL objects. And these objects were not just ANY random objects in the space-time continuum. They were objects falling ON ME!!!!

It was at this point, the point at which random objects were suddenly raining down upon me as I slept, that my subconscious uttered the initial wakeup call. I mean the subconscious mind can only do so much on its own. It had already begun to process the events. It now needed the rest of the brain to figure out what exactly was taking place. So far, the sub had processed that objects were raining down upon us. It had also processed the fact that this made absolutely no sense, being as though we were sleeping peacefully, alone in a room behind locked doors. Beyond that though, it had processed that exactly TWO such objects had fallen upon us in the still of the evening. But as strange as that seemed, it was the third and final piece of information that seemed perhaps strangest of all. One of the objects was particularly furry. FURRY????? Yes, VERY furry. And with that, the subconscious sounded the emergency alarm and declared a level of “code ORANGE”. WAKE UUUUUUUPPPPPPP!!!!!!

The next thing I knew, I was flailing about in my bed, trying to free myself from these uninvited guests as quickly as possible. What could they be? How many were there? I thought of the cat that walked above me in the ceiling on a nightly basis. Had the feline enjoyed a particularly large dinner and FINALLY fallen through the ceiling tiles? No, I wasn’t sure HOW I knew it, by I somehow knew that whatever IT or THEY were, the entrance had NOT been the ceiling. The entrance had been the window above me. Perhaps it was the injured bat that had been in front of my room just a few hours prior. Could it have made its way through my window in search of fresh gringo blood? No, that didn’t make sense either. After the encounter with that vehicle, the bat couldn’t even fly. And whatever this was, it was SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER AND FURRIER than a bat.

And so it was at this point, still in that foggy state between sleep and reality, that the subconscious sounded the alarm for “code RED”. We were now well beyond the point of needing to wake up. It was now time to PANIC!!!!!!!!!!

Panic. Now THAT is a word with which NO ONE really wants to be associated. I am certainly no exception. I mean I’ve been working in emergency services for the last 10 years, and I generally pride myself on taking an “OK, let’s look at this for what it is…..let’s not overreact and make matters worse……everything will be just fine” approach to life and crisis. I typically enjoy a natural personality that lends itself AWAY from such things as panic or hysteria. And if I’m honest, I would have to say that I can be a bit critical of those who choose a different, more dramatic path. On that night however, I wasn’t given a choice. The internal alarm had sounded. We were now in “code RED”. It was now time to panic, and that was exactly what I did.

I continued flailing about in my bed, trying desperately to free myself from the fury of this creature (or creatures). And although I still remained primarily in the world of the subconscious (never have been one to wake up particularly easy), I realized that things didn’t seem to be improving. I realized that the more I struggled, the more I flailed about, the more intertwined I became with the beast. My current actions of mere struggling did not seem to be effective. It was now time to invoke the second half of the panic strategy. It was now time for the historically tried and true method of……screaming like a little girl.

I think it was the screaming that actually did the trick. That is, I think it was the screaming that carried me through on the final leg of the race to the world of the conscious. Because as I officially woke up, freed myself from the no-doubt rabid beast, and jumped out of bed with a gold medal performance, I realized that the screaming was indeed coming from me.

Several moments later, the screaming had thankfully stopped. I stood motionless, breathing heavily in the darkness next to my bed. I took an inventory of myself. There didn’t SEEM to be any teeth or claw marks on my body. Was it possible that I had miraculously escaped this attempted mauling, unscathed? I waited, primarily for movement. Where had the beast gone? Was it still in the bed? Was it hiding in the shadows? Was it crouched in a concealed location, UNDER the bed perhaps, planning the second attack? I continued to wake up. As I visually inspected the darkness in complete stillness, the theories continued to build in my head. I assessed the facts known to that point. I KNEW that at least one animal, most likely two, had fallen upon me. This much was clear. I also somehow knew that it or they had entered through the window above me. And as I looked to the window, I noticed that there was indeed something unusual about my small portal to the outside world. There was still something in the window. To be more exact, there was something halfway IN the window and halfway OUT of the window.

It was in THAT moment that I realized exactly what had happened. It absolutely made perfect sense. I was SURE. I had been the unfortunate recipient of a cruel prank. Someone had trapped some type of animal, put it in a pillow case, and injected it into my room through the available opening of the window. There in the darkness of the night, it was clear as day. I still hadn’t located the animal, but there was the pillow case, halfway IN and halfway OUT of the window. I was officially awake. The mind was firing on all cylinders. I had solved the mystery.
But despite the facts that backed my air-tight case, two lingering questions remained to be answered. First of all, although I had stood in the darkness next to my bed for a good five minutes now, I STILL hadn’t found whatever furry creature had been dropped into my sanctuary of peace. AND besides that, it didn’t make much sense that the pillow case, still in the window, seemed to be made out of the exact same material of a shirt I happen to own. Was it possible that there was more to this story than I had figured out?

It’s funny what the mind does, especially in a state of SUB or UN consciousness. So as I stood there next to my bed, finally realizing what had ACTUALLY taken place several moments prior in the REAL world, I had to laugh a bit, not only at the situation, but at myself. Sure enough, that “pillow case” in the window WAS INDEED my shirt. And as I turned on the light and offered a closer inspection, I realized that in addition to this one shirt, most ALL of my hanging shirts, pants, and jackets seemed to be in the process of making a hasty exit. In fact, the only hanging items that WEREN’T on a journey to the outside world, were lying motionless on my now vacant mattress. There they were, one pair of jeans……..and that furry, no-doubt rabid beast known as…….my black Patagonia fleece jacket.

The neighbors had warned me about the window in the past. I had just chosen to ignore their advice, claiming that the window was high enough to pose NO viable security risk. Without climbing the bars, one couldn’t even see that there were clothes immediately to the interior. That night however, someone HAD climbed the bars and subsequently reached through the window in an attempt to steal whatever happened to be in reach (i.e. my clothes). Unfortunately for him (or her….let’s be fair), in the haste of this well planned heist, several of the garments had fallen upon me from the ledge above. It was most likely my screams of terror that brought an interruption to the crime. As for what had brought an interruption to that beach fiesta? I’m going to have to go with the jeans. After all, they’ve got some real weight to them. But the real problem wasn’t the weight of the jeans. The REAL problem, as it turned out, was that black fleece jacket. It’s just so soft and “furry”. The more I struggled, the more “the beast” and I became mutually intertwined. It was truly a hopeless situation.

I spent the next hour or so hammering boards over my “once a window to the outside world”, as if preparing for a future life on the Gulf Coast. What I ultimately lost in fresh air and outdoor access has more than been made up for in sleep-conducive darkness and silence, not to mention the additional security for my classic collection of hanging garments. Once again, as was the case of the Panamanian bus, all was well that ended. The would-be thief returned home empty handed, and the only thing I lost that night was a bit of valuable sleep. And sure, I’m a little embarrassed over the events that transpired on that fateful Saturday night. But you have to laugh at yourself from time to time. I mean without that, you might just look a little ridiculous…….flailing about in the night.

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