How to get through a house of horrors
(Probably super obvious to anyone who’s not me, but just let me have this.)
I’ve had this bopping around my head for a while and was going to post it during that holiday week before the election (Sleepy Holloween? Diwaloween?), after taking a walk past the skeletons of the local haunted hayride. But somehow, this seems even more relevant now…
I hate scary things, ironically enough considering where I live. The last horror movie that I remember seeing was The Ring at a Girl Scouts slumber party.
So when my friend reaaaally wanted to visit a haunted house in Krakow, I reaaaally didn’t want to go.
But we’d spent most of the week hacking our lungs out, and it was conveniently right across the street, so we went. We were told that we couldn’t go in with just two people, so we’d have to wait for the next group. A bunch of guys were there, joking around, getting ready to go in.
We came back later to find the same group of guys, faces frozen with terror, muttering about how one of them had freaked out so badly he’d hit one of the monsters and they had to leave. Now I was definitely wondering what I’d gotten myself into.
A father and his two teenage daughters joined our group. We were handed a flashlight and told that whoever was holding the flashlight had to walk in front, but that actually it was the least scary position to be in…
Somehow I ended up with the flashlight, but to my surprise, I discovered that I was actually kind of ok. As long as I could see the monster, name the monster, and laugh at the person in the silly monster mask, as long as I stayed focused on just getting from one room to another, I could (somewhat) keep it together. It was fascinating to see how we each dealt with fear differently.
After escaping from someone wielding a chainsaw, we stepped into the daylight feeling like motherfucking badasses (and did way better than those silly boys).
Months later, my friend managed to get a link to the photos, and it was hilarious to watch as walked through the entire thing in a clump:
That’s really how you get through something scary, right? With a group of really solid people at your back?
A couple might cover your eyes and mouth and stab you in the back until you’re left stumbling through the dark alone, shining the flashlight on everyone, unsure who the real monsters are.
And then, eventually, you painfully push them away and a few new faces gently make their way in and you discover who really belongs in your huddle, at least for now.
And when you need a break from holding the flashlight, you hand it off to someone behind you and take a turn hunting for a key or flailing about uselessly or seeing if a monster’s really a monster or just a doll sitting in a chair.
I wrote last year about how for Ugadi (Telugu new year), we eat a sauce that signifies the different flavors of experiences coming up in the year ahead. I know that for many of you, 2016 was also an especially bitter year. But I’d like to thank you for (sometimes literally) guarding my back no matter what other demons you may have been dealing with. I hope I can be a more helpful member of your huddle in the year to come.
And so, I don’t know if I’ve grown or if I’ve aged, if I’ve grown stronger or just harder.
I understand a little better why people need to believe in karma or heaven/hell. That even dodged bullets can leave a mark. That what doesn’t kill you can make you wish it had. That good doesn’t always triumph over evil and positive thinking can keep you imprisoned in bad situations.
That sometimes, there really aren’t (productive) lessons to learn, that you just have to fiercely defend the light and somehow trudge on.
This year has been a seemingly never-ending series of “Well, it sucks to lose A but at least I have B,” only to have B implode in some fantastic fashion.
But, at least in this moment, I have those beers on the Danube, dancing in Goodrich like it’s 2009, giggling over old yearbooks in a dusty storage room.
And now, whatever 2017 brings (knock on wood), at least I might have some tiny inkling of how to get through a house of horrors.