Home Sweet Agony
"Megan" Steven Franks
I remember the first time my parents left me home alone like it was yesterday. I was seven years old. Although I have brothers that would typically babysit me, they were out of the house. My oldest brother went to a friend’s house, and honestly, I can’t remember where the next oldest brother went, but he was the troublemaker so it probably wasn’t good. Even so, I was scared to death. My parents left me to my own devices, forcing me to practically fend for myself. I was just learning how to use appliances like the toaster, microwave, and sometimes the oven if I was feeling brave. Before my parents left, I tried to act smug, like I was prepared to be alone for the first time.
“You can always call dad or I if you need anything,” my mom said.
“Please, I’ll be fine; I know how to take care of myself mom, geez.”
I pretended I had a game plan: play on Webkinz for an hour or so, rummage through the fridge and pig out, then watch TV until I passed out on the couch. Unfortunately, this was not how my night went. It started right after my parents left. I turned from the door they exited and found the same house as always, but this time a dark shadow floated over it, changing its appearance. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere in the house with it being that dim, out of pure fear, I turned on every light I could, to ward off the monsters, of course. I started pacing the living room. My heart was beating much faster than it should have. Medically, I probably should have sought help.
I should back up; I wasn’t completely alone. I did I have a hamster at the time. It hardly knew I existed and offered no emotional support for the state I was in. Although it was just a small rodent, I found comfort in the fact that I wasn’t alone. But this hamster would soon become my enemy.
As the night went on, it got darker, and I grew more scared. I began to hear noises. In my mind it was the monsters that had been hiding in the daylight. In reality, it was probably just the wind hitting the windows, or the refrigerator letting out ice. As I would say when I was that age: “The monsters are coming out.” I had the deepest fear of being home alone. I didn’t dare make my way toward the stairs; that’s where I viewed my demise. I saw that dark stairwell as a coffin. Most of us can see the scene: a young child, scared of the stairs leading to a basement, walks to the top of the stairs, only to let her imagination take charge. She takes the first step and suddenly she’s transported to a different realm. There are monsters everywhere, purple in color and snarling. Dramatic as it was, that’s what I saw.
I was so terrified to do anything, that I forgot to pig out. I skipped the meeting with the pantry, and went straight to TV time. I turned on the television only to drown out the sounds of my mind taking over. It was almost time for the late-night talk shows that I was never allowed to stay up to watch; so, I did. I sat on the couch, mindlessly viewing the host interview some celebrity that I had never heard of. After the TV did nothing for my panicked mind, I decided to go to my pretty pink room instead. As I walked towards my bedroom, the mirror at the end of the hallway revealed my furrowed forehead, illuminating the stress I had endured. Remember when I said my hamster would become my enemy?
I began to color an array of pages I had printed off in preparation for the night; I did it all by myself might I add. The scent of the waxy Crayola crayons flooded my nose with joy. In that brief moment, I was at peace. I wasn’t watching any TV or playing music. The only sound was that of the crayons rendezvousing with the printer paper. You know how sometimes when you’re alone in a room, it’s so quiet that it seems loud? Well that’s how it was, and I think that’s what put my crazed mind at bay. But then my peaceful state was interrupted by a scratching noise coming from the spare room.
Immediately, I thought, “Oh my god, it’s a murderer.”
My melodramatic mind went straight to a vision of my untimely slaughter. A few weeks prior, I had watched an episode of Ghost Adventures that featured the story of a 19th century axe murderer. He had snuck into the closet of a family’s home while they were away at church. The murderer stayed in the closet until his killing spree commenced. Once night fell, and the entire family was sound asleep, he entered each of their rooms and swiftly severed their heads from their bodies. That’s how I saw myself dying in that moment. I figured it was punishment for practically pushing my parents out the door to their event, thinking I could take care of myself. Again, I was a very dramatic seven-year-old. Acting like I was in an episode of Law and Order I tiptoed to the spare room, quieter than I have ever been in my life. I turned the corner where my hand would meet the light and with ninja-like reflexes, I quickly turned it on. What I saw once my eyes adjusted, flabbergasted me. It was that stupid hamster, cheerfully running on its stupid wheel. I tried scolding the hamster, making sure it knew how much it scared me.
“Look me in the eyes, do you know what you just did?”
How do you reprimand a rodent that has no idea who you are or why it’s running? Nonetheless, I left the room to continue with a Strawberry Shortcake coloring page. After that shameful incident, I decided it was time to do something. So, I did what any scared seven-year-old would do—call mom. I called and I called, but she didn’t pick up. My mind went to the worst possible things. I started to think, “she got into a car accident, she’s probably dead.” Or, “she probably met a new family with a better kid and she forgot all about me.” I began to run over the list of my recent convictions: sneaking dessert before dinner and forgetting to put the cap back on the toothpaste were all I could come up with. But this small list, in my young mind, meant I was a terrible daughter and that’s why she wasn’t picking up. Clearly this wasn’t the case, and in reality, she was just busy at her card club. After twelve missed calls over the course of two and a half minutes, I heard the click of the telephone that meant someone was on the other line. It was muffled from the background noise of laughter, but through the chaos I heard the most beautiful sentence: “Go to bed Emma; we’re coming home.” That clearly annoyed, but sweet voice coming from my mother meant that I could finally breathe again.
My night of agony was nearing an end. I wasn’t going to get murdered, and I no longer believed I was going to get left behind by a family that didn’t want me. Minutes later, still in my room, I heard the rumble of the garage door opening. I distinctly caught the sound of the key being turned in the lock. Once I heard the door to the house open, I sprinted with cheetah-like speed to my bed. I couldn’t let my parents know I had been up all evening, terrified of everything, even my own shadow. I shut my eyes as hard as I could, but I feared the crinkles in my eyelids would give me away. I turned over, relaxed my eyes, and pretended to be fast asleep. I heard my mom enter my room and felt her warm hug for the first time in hours. I let out one last giant puff of air and drifted off to sleep.