There’s probably quite a range of things that can give you the heebie-jeebies and dent your confidence in your own sanity. As an example: if I started seeing little green men everywhere I went – the classic kind with boggly eyes and tinny, mechanical voices, my first thought would be –
Goodness! something has gone ‘ping’ in my head whilst I slept. Where is the nearest hospital? Perhaps I should just call an ambulance?
as opposed to
Gracious! Interplanetary voyagers have invaded whilst I slept. Are the police aware? Perhaps it would be prudent to hide in case they have weapons that reduce a human to a little heap of carbon dust or a puddle of water.
Well, it hasn’t got to that stage yet, but there is this something… this something about me that seems to startle or physically frighten some people.
And I don’t know what it is.
Earlier today I took one of the cats to the vets to get her claws clipped. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Judy the receptionist did not cower behind her desk and beg me to just take the contents of the till, and Rosie my cat, and be gone. I had a jolly little chat with yet another Polish locum who was all for charging me nothing at all to clip Rosie’s nails until Judy sotto voce corrected him.
So far so more or less normal, but then I got home. No sooner was I safely indoors and thinking about sandwiches than Charlie appeared in my back garden carrying an empty dog lead. This is not unusual for Charlie. He’s a bit simple, is constantly mislaying one pet or another and has no concept of trespass or privacy. There he was, nose pressed up against my patio doors, looking in.
So I went out. He took several steps back, quaking – sort of.
What’s up, Charlie? Though the empty dog-lead was a clue.
Together we searched my garden for his dog. He hung back, seeming unwilling to venture further into my garden with me. He’s happy enough to wander round it when he thinks I’m out – even in the middle of the night when he assumes I’ll be asleep.
She isn’t here, Charlie. Usually she just comes in, does a big poop on my lawn and leaves. I even had to buy one of those pooper-scoopers…
I am trying, in our oblique English way, to make a point about dog poop, but subtlety does not register with Charlie. You’d have to hit him over the head with a hammer –
Giant Poodle poop THWACK! in my back garden THWACK! not THWACK! at all THWACK! acceptable THWACK! THWACK!
And of course I wouldn’t do that. Live and let live; anything for a quiet life.
All the same, he is starting at me in horror and backing away, muttering. I give up and come indoors.
Gazing in the living-room mirror, I try to work out what it is, since this is not the first time I have had this reaction. Admittedly, it’s a bit gloomy in my living room since I have to keep the curtains closed, since the cats swung on the nets and ripped the rawlplug out of the wall… But surely I could see if I had sprouted a big hairy wart on the end of my nose? Do I have fangs, perhaps? All I can see is a tired, pale, oval of a face. Sure, it looks like no face I ever imagined I would be wearing, but we all grow old sooner or later. It’s familiar enough.
Am I making weird faces? Of course, now I am staring in the mirror I am not making faces, but maybe I only make faces when I’m not staring in the mirror. Someone once asked my mother if I had St Vitus’ Dance when I was an infant. I had no idea who St Vitus was or why he should be dancing or what that had to do with me, and I never found out. What I was left with was her displeasure. Her embarrassment, her irritation even, to be saddled with a child like me.
Do I twitch?
Do I grimace?
The other thing that used to happen to me was in supermarkets. I thought to begin with it was only when I was with Mum. She had this habit of grabbing at me in horror as if I was about to step on someone – or blaring (she was deaf) Watch out Linda there’s a lady behind you – when I’d been perfectly aware of the lady and was in no danger of crashing into her. And if anything she was the one who was not aware of her surroundings: I always seemed to be having to coax her out of the way of other shoppers.
I thought it was just me she did this to, but later discovered that my Canadian sister had also been irritated at being treated like some sort of ticking time bomb or monstrous impediment in public.
I thought it was Mum, not me. But then I was in the supermarket on my own one day, quietly shopping, aware of an elderly lady shopping some considerable distance away from me, when suddenly she gasped, stepped back and threw her hands up, as if convinced I was about to assault her. I wanted to yell at her What IS it with you? What exactly did I just do to elicit that reaction?
But of course I didn’t, since that would only have frightened her more. She’s probably have screamed for the manager.
Maybe I don’t want to know the answer, even with Halloween coming up.
What is it about me that’s so scary?