Because semi-conscious posting is a *good* idea. . .

July 25, 2009

It’s been a weird night.

One would be inclined to believe that if the stairs in question are much narrower than the house one grew up in, falling up them would be, well, easier. Constrained spaces acting on a body in motion, limiting the angles of attack, simplifying the slide coefficient, etc.

Having lived in my apartment for a year and a half, I supposed exactly that until tonight, when I was gracefully carrying my groceries up the steps. I stumbled a bit, caught myself, and then began my falling-up routine.

Scientific testing has recently revealed that every width reduction X acts as an exponential multiplier of vertical velocity.

I actually found myself mysteriously projected from halfway, to completely up, and on the landing (hidden catapault on the tread?), far harder than I’ve fallen in years. I did maintain the presence of mind to curl myself into a ball around the eggs before slamming into the mirror. In related news, the mirror did NOT fall on top of me. This is a reassuring thing.

Now-why I’m awake and writing this instead of being asleep. . .

I’m a little rattled.

In truth, that means my heart is pounding, I’m twitchy and looking over my shoulder, and my mind is painting nightmare images every time my eyelids close. But my dignity prefers rattled.

I was about 85% asleep earlier when I remembered that I had to wake up again–we owed our neighbor downstairs a check for internet, and I’d promised to drop it in his mailbox tonight. (well, last night, which meant I was compelled to keep my promise *tonight*) I didn’t even bother to turn the lights back on, just grabbed the envelope and headed downstairs, planning on being back in bed before I’d come completely back to consciousness.

This is important. I suspect I spend more “functional” time in a semi-sleep state than most people. And in this state, the rules of rationality and reality are either suspended or dismissed entirely. It makes for interesting morning-after stories.

Down my treacherous stairs, edging carefully along the wall to avoid any other surprises–I hadn’t forgotten the catapult from earlier, and wouldn’t have been surprised to see siege engines, long nines, and other war machines readying for round two. With stairs, I’ve come to fervently agree that discretion beats down valor and steals its lunch money.

But I digress. I made it downstairs safely and stuffed my toes into my shoes, praying that there wouldn’t be anything unpleasant (centipedes, scorpions, torpedoes) in them that would require quick reaction and/or actual thought on my part.

Sadly, yes, that IS an and/or. My paternal grandmother lived in the mountains. In the get-et-by-a-bear mountains. When you stayed with Granny, you’d best check your shoes. Once I didn’t, and discovered that I am likely to skip the “Something’s-In-There-OMG-Get-The-Shoe-Off” reaction in favor of “OMG-what-was-that-jump-around-jump-around-screech-make-it-stuck-seasick-and-mad” reaction. I like to think I’ve gotten better in a crisis since then. I also like to think I’m J.E.M.

Hey, it *could* be showtime, Synergy…

I un-set the alarm, opened my front door, squinted against the streetlight, and saw…

Someone on my steps.

(Heart attack #1.)

Hey–this is New York. There are homeless people. I didn’t really want them on my *steps*, but this one looked like a woman.

And didn’t look homeless.

Looked like an older lady who needed a place to sit for a minute before walking the rest of the way home.

I did some quick math. Homeless people freak me out in a makes-me-question-my-moral-character way. They make me *really* uncomfortable, and I feel guilty about this–especially when it comes to the inoffensive, sad-looking, elderly people who I wish had somewhere soft, safe, and comfortable to be, so I figured not bothering this lady could be a sort-of balm to my guilt. Good karma points. Making the world a not-worse place. Also, I figured if she turned out to be a nutcase, I was pretty sure I could take her. I never open my door without having my keys held like weapons, and I was higher than she was. Probably faster, too.

So I went around her and dropped the check in the lockbox. Then I turned back and tried to find the best way to avoid looking at her.

That isn’t a homeless thing. That’s an Ali thing–I rarely look at people’s faces. Watch me in conversation some day. I’ll look at your shoes, your hands, your knee, your collar, and I’ll make direct eye contact often enough to not get busted, but otherwise, not your face. It gets worse if emotions are involved. Or if I’m sleepy. Not a good combo.

“Don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t look,” I chanted to myself. Of course, that meant that my eyes rebelled and slid upward, and I saw. . .

[gulp. Heart Attack #2]

Okay, there’s been a lot of zombies in conversation lately. And my friends had 30 Days of Night on a couple weeks ago. And I was still at least half asleep when I was outside. And, well, letting any sort of horror movie concept get in my imagination-addled cranium is a mistake, anyway. It fails so spectacularly at filtering them out later, you see.

The part of my brain that has been awake and typing this for half an hour since says that the lady had a cold sore around her mouth. Maybe rosacea. Maybe smeared lipstick. Maybe Polynesian sauce.

But the other part of my brain, the part that was in charge at that moment, looked at her and *knew*, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was a zombie on my front steps, and that it would try to eat us in our sleep.

And in that moment, I was terrified the way you are when you’re three, and there’s no good reason to believe that zombies *aren’t* real, except now I’m twenty-eight, and I have two other girls asleep upstairs that are in my care, and Zombie Lady was going to have to come through me if she thought she was getting to them–although that was a prospect that terrified me, too. I was scared-down-in-your-toes scared, and my stomach clenched (and still hasn’t chilled out), and every fight-or-flight instinct I had went high-alert, and I flew up the stairs and into the house and checked the deadbolt three times and the alarm and stood at the door listening.

And then I came upstairs to talk about it, because if you put your nightmares into words, they get weaker. Also, so tomorrow I’ll know I didn’t dream the whole thing.



  1. I would fall up a dozen flights of steps happily before dealing with Zombie Homeless Lady. That would have scared the piss out of me, in a manner that is far more likely to be literal than I wish it were.
    I hate hate hate that even though we’re “adults,” we can still have those moments of absurd terrible childish fear. Sometimes I get the fight-or-flight thing, too, but mostly (to swipe a word from Richard Adams), I just go tharn. Because if I don’t move, the T. Rex can’t see me.

  2. You are remarkably good at creating humorous hyphenated sequences.

  3. Lol. . . “tharn”–I might have to keep that. I do the same thing; I won’t even scream if I’m scared, just kind of suck in all the air around me and shut down.

  4. And YOU are remarkably good at finding compliments that will make me smile all day. 😀 Thanks!
    I just wish that hyphenation stuff was deliberate, and not a literal transcription of my thought process.

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