Thursday, October 27, 2005

Demons closing in on every side.

A'ight, here's what I read the other night. And that's it. No more WYSIWYG talk from me.

Growing up, one of my parents’ preferred nicknames for me (and believe me, there were many) was “The Paradox.”

If they were here right now, they wouldn’t hesitate for a second to cite countless entertaining and embarrassing examples of why this particular moniker was apt; but there’s really no example more a propos than the time I asked my mom, at the age of five, to return from the video store with VHS copies of both Mary Poppins and Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

She obliged. Hesitantly. A fact that speaks to an aspect of my personality that was a continual frustration for my parents as I grew into adolescence. That is, I was both easily terrified and at the same time inexplicably and magnetically drawn to that which I knew full well would terrify me.

Example: Haunted Mansions. I first became aware of these sources of pure psychological torment early in life, during my family’s yearly beach vacations. Knowing that it was scheduled to open at dusk, all day the specter of the Haunted Mansion would hang over me. I’d begin asking my parents upon our arrival in the morning if they’d take me on it in the evening, extract their eventual promises to do so, and then all day I'd be filled with a mixture of excitement and terror. And for years, this ended with me being carried by one of my parents, sobbing, away from the line just as it became my turn to board the ride.

So in this instance, I was tipped off to the Thriller video’s existence by a friend’s mom who described it to my own mother within earshot of me. Not smart. The moment she whispered that is was “S-C-A-R-Y” I of course knew I had to see it. Subsequent nightmares be damned.

And holy shit, would there be nightmares.

As noted, my mom did relent and brought a copy of the video home with her, rationalizing that she would at least be able to watch it with my brother and me, and all would be well, seeing as how (as any child of the eighties will remember) after the 11-minute video there was a feature-length making-of documentary. The theory was, as scared as I would no doubt be at the sight of werewolves and zombies wreaking havoc under the light of the full moon, I would then watch the making-of, see how it was all done, and would ultimately be better off for the experience. I’d be able to apply that knowledge of how the make believe is manufactured to all of the other sources of terror I would no doubt encounter in my young life.

Sounds good, right? And maybe it would have been, if we had gotten anywhere near the making-of portion of the video... Not even close. My brother and I settled onto the sofa, my mom pushed play on the remote, and moments later I was reduced to a sopping, sobbing, quivering mass on the now tear and sweat-drenched carpeting of our family room. My shell-shocked mom never knew what hit her. I didn’t even make it to the then-mythical transformation of Wacko Jacko into Wacko Werewolf, before I was grasping blindly and hysterically at my mother, screaming, “Turn it off! Turn it off!”

Fumbling with the remote, my flustered mom tried desperately to flick off the tape before I became epileptic, and attempted (in vain of course) to comfort me. Ha! I was entirely inconsolable. Even Mary Poppins, that happy-go-lucky British bitch, couldn’t offer a stitch of comfort. I was all, “Fuck you, Mary Poppins! You know what you can do with your fucking spoon full of sugar, bitch!”

Yeah. There would be no sleep for me that night. No darkness either, as I refused to even entertain the possibility of my bedroom light being turned off. In fact while I have no recollection of this, my parents report that I even went so far as to forbid the watching of the video in the house at all. And supposedly, when they did try to watch it that night, I ran to the top of the steps, and once again began screaming, “Turn it off! Turn it off!”

What can I say. I was a basketcase.

But the thing about me was that as momentarily traumatic as such things were, I generally moved on quickly and forgot about them, turning my attention instead to the next thing that would fuck me up. And that’s exactly what happened post-Thriller: time moved on, and next thing I knew, Halloween was upon us. And I guess that in all of my self-absorbed, terror-fueled ranting and raving, I never noticed the effect that the Thriller episode had also had on my brother O/P, eighteen months my junior, but infuriatingly so often my senior in terms of his stoic un-flappability. And let me tell you, he learned at a very young age how to use that to his advantage. Being the younger and smaller one, I guess he had no choice but to find creative, psychological forms of torment to counter my physical ones. And so while I was kicking him, beating him with inanimate objects, smacking him, spitting on him, punching him, etc., he was busy acutely preying upon my fears and insecurities. Fears and insecurities he so seldom seemed to share, much to my own shame and humiliation.

But that particular Halloween... That was another story.

Halloween was always a big deal in our house. O/P and I were allowed to pick out our own costumes, and then my mom, with her considerable skill, would help us construct them. Over the years we would come up with some interesting ideas, though admittedly, O/P’s were always a hell of a lot more conceptual and attention-grabbing than mine. But that year... That year took the cake. I don’t have the faintest recollection of what my costume ended up being, due to the truly stunning, off-the-wall nature of O/P's masterpiece. For when my mom asked him what he wanted to dress up as, no doubt expecting something along the lines of robot, transformer, space shuttle, eighteen-wheeler, you know, the usual complicated O/P-type ideas to which we had all become accustomed, he responded in total seriousness, “Super Banana.”

My mom stared back blankly.

“Super Banana?”

“Super Banana.”

Well, to this day no one has ever been able to ascertain where O/P came up with that one. But to my mom’s considerable credit, by Halloween he had some semblance of yellow, caped, Banana-shaped suit to wear. Much to the extreme amusement, of course, of everyone but him. To him, this was some serious shit.

As the big night approached and we began planning, it was decided that that year was the year we would visit our neighborhood’s notorious haunted house. Oh that’s right, there was a house in our neighborhood that each year would be turned into some form of free scary experience by its owners for neighborhood trick-or-treaters. My parents glanced nervously at each other given my dubious history with haunted houses, but resigned themselves to whatever consequences surely lay in wait.

And once again, I was filled with that familiar mixture of excitement and foreboding. So I decided to focus instead on the enormous bag of loot I would no doubt be returning home with later that evening. And in preparation, what do I decide to listen to while getting suited up? Why, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, of course! See, I had moved on from the video-watching debacle, and had actually begun to enjoy that song again. But much to my shock and, I admit, unabashed delight, it appeared that O/P on the other hand, had not. For I had no sooner put the cassette tape in the tape deck and begun dancing around the family room that poor O/P was crying in the corner, begging me to turn it off.

“Oh O/P, I’m so sorry” I cooed “sympathetically,” “I’ll turn that right off for you,” I said as I crossed the room and, of course, turned it up ten times louder.

He began to wail, tears streaming down his face.

“Ok, ok,” I said, “Calm down,” and flicked the tape player off. But you know that as soon as he began to compose himself I just flicked it back on again, panic lighting up his eyes once more. I was ecstatic, and wanted desperately to see how far I could take this. It crossed my mind that I might actually be able to make him piss himself.

This fun little game continued until my mom came to see what all the fuss was about, reprimanded me for torturing my brother, and took the tape away. The bitch actually took the tape away! Where the hell was she during my night of torment as the Thriller video’s presence in our home terrorized me? That’s what I wanted to know.

No matter. It was getting dark, and I decided it was time to set the scene for our fellow trick-or-treaters and start playing one of those ridiculous “Scary Halloween Sounds” tapes that I now realize actually sound more like an S&M soundtrack than anything particularly scary... And before I even knew what was happening, O/P was crying again and my mom was taking that tape away. Goddamn it! I hadn’t even done that one on purpose!

Whatever. It was time to get our trick-or-treat on. O/P was transformed into Super Banana, I was transformed into who-remembers-what, and we were off with my mom, our friend R, and R’s mom to scour the neighborhood.

And before I knew it, we were standing before the dreaded haunted house. Oh god. Ok, I can do this, I can do this, I kept telling myself. And just think, I reasoned, there’s candy waiting for you on the other side of this experience.

And so with that encouraging thought, I steeled myself. We approached the house and discovered that they, too, had one of those S&M tapes playing. I glanced sideways, just in time to see Super Banana gulp and begin, just slightly, to hesitate. And what can I say. I actually drew strength from his hesitation.

We knocked on the door, and were greeted by this freakish looking woman with a shock of crazy purple hair and a long Elvira-esque dress who ushered us quickly inside. Closing and locking both the storm door and the main door behind us, she began telling a tale of, get this, an escapee from a local prison who had been sighted in the area.

Ok lady, where’s the candy? My eyes scanned the room and spotted the loot, perched on a table near the door we entered through.

Yeah, so escaped convict, armed, dangerous, insane, blah blah blah. We all just stood there, waiting patiently for something to happen. Well, all except Super Banana, who had begun to shift back and forth on his feet. It crossed my mind that I may just get to see him piss himself yet!

And then, suddenly, a noise from the top of the stairs.

“What was that?” the woman gasped melodramatically, thrusting her face towards ours. I shrugged nonchalantly. R giggled. A wave of panic flashed across Super Banana’s masked visage.

“Oh god!” she screamed, pulling a revolver out from...somewhere...just as a handcuffed gorilla came charging down the stairs towards us.

A handcuffed gorilla! Even then, I was confounded. Shots rang out. The gorilla stumbled. I wondered momentarily whether the woman ought to save a bullet or two for the aforementioned crazed convict, or if perhaps said convict had merely been a herring of the red variety.

Super Banana, on the other hand, never got to contemplate the intricacies of the situation. The second our hostess pulled out her revolver, he was done. He spun around faster than I’d ever seen my brother move before, threw open the first door, and proceeded to pound frantically on the handle of the storm door. Revolver Woman actually had to reach over and undo the lock so that he could escape to the front walk, where our parents waited patiently for us to emerge.

And escape he did. Though he didn’t stop at the front walk. Oh no. Super Banana kept right on going, up the street and back toward our own house, peel between his legs. My once again confused and bewildered mom followed him home, while R’s mom accompanied us on the rest of our trick-or-treating adventures.

And as shameful as this may be, when I got home that night, the candy I gorged myself on might have tasted just a little bit sweeter as I reflected on the fact that a certain someone besides me might enjoy a sleepless night of tossing and turning in his bed. And that, surely, henceforth there would be a chink in that certain someone’s armor of infuriating superiority.

And there was. For a time. Well, that is, until the tragic day when one of the older neighborhood kids introduced me to Freddy Krueger and the Nightmare on Elm Street movies...

Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.


Blogger ~Manda said...

ha ha.. i LOVE IT! :) it's soo much fun to terrorize someone ELSE! hee hee...
So do you like halloween and "scary" things now? or has that stuck with you?

3:23 PM  
Blogger Robo's Drone said...

Sweet. I pulled the same kind of shit on my childhood girl friend named Ginger. Good ol' Ginger. The most finicky eater and, pretty much, human being on the planet. ANYthing would scare the living crap out of her.

I remember watching Beetlejuice when Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis tear the flesh off of their ghost faces. Ginger covered her eyes, flipped out and asked me never to play that again. So naturally I paused it on that part and told her it was safe to uncover her eyes.

I believe crying ensued. She may have also scratched and pinched me.

5:31 PM  
Blogger ~Manda said...

lol Ginger sounds like my little sister... hee hee she is going to her FIRST huanted house tomorrow night... i WISH i could go and be there when she PISSES her pants! HA HA HA


9:33 AM  
Blogger Raven in NYC (aka Mark) said...

I can't believe I read the whole thing! Fantastic!!!! I think you need to find a way to make this an audio post... probably so much better hearing it from you direcly.

12:18 AM  
Blogger P/O said...

hey manda--yeah, i'm now a big lover of all things scary and halloween related. just went to a haunted house last night in fact, which maybe i'll write about at some point (though haunted attractions in the city are never *anywhere near* as good as the ones in the suburbs.)

drone, wow, even *i* was never scared of beetlejuice. :)

and raven, yeah i know, definitely too long of a post, but what can i say. i had to read for ten minutes!

9:57 AM  

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