I was particularly unnerved last week when a wayward shopping cart showed up in front of my neighbor’s house two doors away. When I took Bob out for his morning walk, there it was – the four-wheeler, once a conveyor of family groceries now ominously holding a 25-inch Magnavox television and a hatchet. Just two items but unnerving enough to make Bob and I scoot around them faster than a bunny. The incongruence of those two things nestled into a shopping cart on our quiet little neighborhood block has stuck in my mind and brought back all of those nights I spent with my hands and head protected.
Some might say it was bad parenting for my dad to take me to see Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte when I was seven years old but for me, it was just a night at the movies, until the first scene. There’s poor Bruce Dern out on the veranda, waiting for his sweetheart and he drifts asleep. His hand drops the little bouquet of flowers he had for his fiancé and the next thing he knows, an axe comes down and amputates his hand with his head soon to follow. And surprisingly, no one called social services when my father bought the soundtrack and played its haunting theme song for me as I was hunched over in my bed, terrified, with my hands firmly underneath me and my head was buried under the covers. With my mother checked into a mental hospital, there was little policing of his sense of humor.
I assumed this sleep position for years, well into college. The compulsion’s weight became too heavy to bear and I slowly revised my body position into something more friendly; I still keep my hands under my pillows at all times and my head gamely sticks out from the blankets. While learning to sleep with Billy, the fear was almost completely absent with my feet sticking bravely from the bottom of the comforter and my arm curved around him and my hand tucked under his left side.
But seeing that cursed shopping cart with its dangerous cargo brought back a rush of anxiety. It’s still possible, Terry, watch your hands. It could still happen! The cart sat there for a full three days before someone took the hatchet and that was all I needed to see. Someone actually took the hatchet before the TV. What else was I to think but someone was on the loose and looking for my hands.
When the television disappeared the following day, it relieved nothing in me. The cart, now empty, was resting where it had for days now and the hatchet’s whereabouts were still unexplained. Bob has become unsettled as well as it takes me a good fifteen minutes to maneuver into a safe and sane position that requires me to bury my hands, both left and right, underneath his body.
He thinks I’m cuddling. Little does he know that he’s my first line of defense.