This week, my therapist suggested I should wait to start dating again. I had only been single and sober for a brief period of time, and she thought I should focus on myself before I let new people into my life. I considered following my therapist’s advice—she offered me wise advice in the past—but then an electrical fire broke out in her building. We evacuated the building, fire trucks arrived, and my session was cut short. Standing outside her building looking at the first truck reminded me that death isn’t a mere abstract fear I experienced as a child, but a reality that could strike me at any minute.
This fear has haunted me for many years. Growing up on Saint Thomas, a US Virgin Island, I often thought about death. One night, this obsession almost ruined a sleepover with my two best friends. (My friends shared the same name. To keep them anonymous, I’ll call them Chloe.) My friends lived on Saint John, another US Virgin Island, and after seeing Jeepers Creepers at a movie theatre by my house, we took a 15 minute ferry ride back to Chloe’s house on Saint John. The movie wasn’t a work of art like The X-Files or The Exorcist, but it scared the shit out of me.
When we returned to my friend’s house, I insisted we lock all the hurricane shutters to prevent the monster from Jeepers Creepers from entering the house and stealing our eyeballs. (Most homes on the Virgin Islands have hurricane shutters.) To lighten the mood, my friends and I watched Big Daddy. After we fell asleep, I heard banging and scratching on the hurricane shutters. The monster was outside. I woke up my friends. They told me to shut up and go back to sleep.
I fell asleep, but then heard loud banging and a scream from the room where Chloe’s mom slept. Damn it, I thought. The monster is removing her mom’s eyeballs! I shook my friends. “You guys, seriously wake up,” I said. They ignored me. Somehow, I convinced myself there were no monsters and managed to drift back to sleep. (This was before a doctor prescribed me benzodiazepines so I have no idea how this happened.) But about an hour later, I woke up again. This time, my friends shared my fear—the house lights were on and cops and police dogs filled the house. An intruder had broken into Chloe’s house. First, he tried to enter downstairs, where we slept, but the hurricane shutters prevented him from entering, so he climbed upstairs and broke into her mother’s room. Thankfully, her mom was a badass—she fought him, and he fled the house.
For about a decade, until I recently reached out to my friends, I naively thought my fears had saved us all. If we hadn't gone to see Jeepers Creepers, I wouldn't have been terrified and locked all the hurricane shutters. By closing the hurricane shutters, I stopped the intruder from entering Chloe’s room and raping and killing all three of us. Once I became an adult, I realized the intruder probably saw the hurricane shutters were closed and assumed the house was empty and ripe for a robbery. My fears probably caused him to enter the house.
Reflecting on this experience after the fire in my therapist’s building, I realized I had two options: I could rewatch The X-Files online again, safe from danger and living vicariously through Mulder and Scully's sexual tension, or I could spend my nights eating Mexican food and ice cream with pretty musicians. Before I made a decision, I thought about Mulder and Scully. In the FBI agents’ wild adventure, they encountered danger, but it was through this danger that they created a beautiful friendship with each other. I realized I needed to personalize my therapist's advice and look out for myself while also going out and meeting new people.
Although I was once robbed on the streets of New York, I also developed great friendships and met amazing people while roaming the city. I could face harm any time I left my apartment, but I had to face the harm to discover artistic communities and meet fellow freaks. Whether I waited to date new people, as my therapist advised, or signed up for an online dating site, I would meet danger. Deciding to open myself to new experiences against my therapist's advice didn't mean opening my legs for everyone. It meant trusting my instincts and making an effort to connect with humans and situations I was drawn to. As they said on The X-Files, the truth was out there. But I would never find it sitting in my apartment watching television shows. To learn the truth, I had to personalize my therapist’s advice, step outside, and risk meeting monsters.
Previously - My New Roommate Is a Ghost