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Back on the Chain Gang

I'm forever leaving the door unlocked. I used to do it in NY, 'cause we had a doorman. I never lock up when I'm in Ptown — it's Ptown for goodness sake. Here in B2, I often don't take a key with me, since the front door's on a code. I only have one key these days (two if you count my bike lock, which I only carry prn). Being keyless is being free.

Two nights ago, on my way to a big empty bed (Larry's in NY on very important MD business) I walked past the front door. Not only did I check to see if it was locked, but I put the chain guard on.

I never put the chain on. What was that about?

About an hour later, lying in bed, I remembered being 7 or 8 years old, and KNOWING there was a burglar in the house. When I was little, I was forever being scared to death that there was a burglar in the house. Sometimes he was under my bed. Sometimes in the hallway outside my bedroom. Sometimes he was in my closet, waiting for me to go to sleep. He didn’t to hurt me, as long as I didn't see him. But if he saw me moving, or thought I was awake, then I might be able to identify him. That would be problematic … if that happened, he’d need to “get” me.

So I'd lie there, trying to go to sleep. Pretending to be asleep. I’d start seeing things move in the dark, or hearing rustling, and would end up fighting back panicky tears until I gave in and yelled for one of my folks.

Mom would eventually come and tell me nothing was wrong. One night, I was so convinced there was someone in our house that she took me, sobbing and nauseous with fear, on a tour and made me look under every piece of furniture in the entire house. It was torture. So silly thinking back on it, I mean what kind of burglar could fit under a sofa? Well, actually ... quite a good and scary one if we ponder it. On the other hand, maybe not so scary, if they were more Borrowers than Burglars. But I was 7. What did I know? I probably hadn't even read The Borrowers yet.

There was one night, not wanting to bother my parents again, that I called the neighbor to tell her there was someone in our house. Her husband was a California Highway Patrolman (Officer Rude ... no lie, that was his name). I guess we're lucky we didn't end up with flashing patrol cars outside the house. I would have been paranoid *and* grounded. Mrs. Rude came over to the house, waking up my folks and I was sent back to bed, assured that we were intruder-free.

Anyway, I was lying in bed the other night and, while fairly convinced that no one was in the house, still had that odd feeling of 'what if' as the hours passed by and sleep didn't come. I mean, there are stabbers out there, aren't there?

So last night, I chained the door again.

After watching W's speech, I was lying in the bed, and remembered a recurring dream I used to have back in the early 70s, when I wasn't worried about burglars. It was a nightmare about being in war. I was petrified that I'd have to go to Viet Nam and crawl around in a muddy jungle and get shot at. They’d make me be in the army. Should 8-year olds be dreaming about such things?

Half asleep in a post-Bushian fog, I had to remind myself that I'm not going to get drafted. I won't have to go to Iraq. And that the door is chained and there are no burglars in the house.

And tonight? Well, I chained the door before I sat down to write this. It's way too quiet in here, except for my tinnitus and the footsteps I hear every now and again. I'd blame those on the cats, but they're each sleeping in the chairs to my right and left. Maybe there are ghosts in the flat. Wouldn't that be cool? Well yeah, if they were nice ghosts.

Surely I'm not the only one to have had irrational childhood fears. And surely I'm not the only one who occasionally revisits them.

What are yours?