Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Yeah, it's been a while. *cough*

And now I'm only posting to complain of being "sort of odd in [my] mind."

If you've never seen the 1944 version of Gas Light starring Ingrid Bergman as Paula Anton, Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton, and Joseph Cotten as Inspector Brian Cameron of Scotland Yard, you should. But be forewarned; you'll never view anything that happens to you in quite the same way ever again (the only panacea I know is Witold Gombrovicz's Kosmos, which enacts the same plot while remaining the direct antithesis of Gas Light. But don't read it because you'll just hate me; it's one of those sorts of books that "Sanslenom likes").

At any rate, Gas Light begins when Paula and Gregory move back into the home where Paula's aunt was murdered by a burglar in search of the family jewels (literally...get your mind out of the gutter). So that Paula doesn't have to relive the memory of catching her aunt's killer rifling through drawers in search of the goods, Gregory has all the old furnishings moved to the top two stories of the house and all the entrances to them sealed. Everything is fine until brooches, watches, and paintings go missing; Gregory convinces Paula that living in the house is too much for her nerves and that she's gone all klepto as a result. She's not hard to convince, nor is anyone else in the household or among their friends.

What really drives her to the brink, however, are the incessant sounds of footsteps across the abandoned floorboards above her and the constant dimming of the gas lights that illuminate the house. There's a line in the script that has nothing to do with what's going on in Paula's head, but perfectly describes it: "I thought I heard the muffin man." I don't know exactly what a "muffin man" is, but I imagine his sweets are poisoned.

SPOILER ALERT! A good viewer knows what's going to happen in the end: it will be revealed that Gregory is Paula's aunt's murderer, and he's stowed the furniture so he can rummage through it at night in search of the treasure he was denied. It's not the "who?" that matters, really. The question that keeps us watching is "How will Paula manage to confront Gregory while convincing everyone else she is not insane?"

The concept of the psychological abuse taking place in Gas Light is so precise that it gave us the term "to gaslight," meaning "to intentionally drive someone insane by causing them to question their memory and perceptions of reality."

So, why am I writing about all this?

Because I'm being gaslit.

Think I'm paranoid?

Let me explain and you decide.

On Monday, March 5th, I awoke at 3:36 a.m. How do I know this? I'm a collector of strange times. See, I wake up after every dream, which means I wake up seven or eight times a night. Back when I kept a clock by my bedside, I would look at the time when I awoke from a dream. Inevitably, it would be something like 1:23 or 2:22 or 6:54. This became such a source of curious fascination (I gleefully...and wretchedly...I know...anticipated waking up at 6:66) that I finally had to unplug the clock and put it away. I've been waking up at 7:00 a.m. on the dot all my life...except when the damn time changes...so really there was no point in having an alarm anyway.

And, just so you know I am not as insane as I might sound, it wasn't really 3:36. The Hubs sets his clock five minutes fast, so the real time was 3:31 (which I don't find particularly strange, although I'm sure a mathematician would be able to root out some extraordinary calculus to make it unique). My point is that it's all arbitrary, and I know that. I don't assign any sort of significance to it; I just find it fascinating. Fascinating enough that I'll a) remember it and 2) lie back down and think about it for two hours, which is not conducive to my overall health. Now, 3:31 is not a strange time (unless it happens to be the date as well). 3:36 is. It's strange because three + three = six. It's got a mathematical fullness to it that makes it memorable.

So on the morning of March 5th I had to get up to use the restroom. Okay, so how do I know it was March 5th? Because of an appointment I had later and the events I'm about to describe, the day turned out to be unforgettably miserable. So on March 5th I got up and fumbled around for my robe while I glanced at my husband's clock. 3:36. Ugh. I went to the restroom, got a glass of water, and went back to bed.

So there I was, about an hour and a half later by my reckoning, lying in a heap of blankets, listening to my husband breathing, wishing I hadn't looked at the clock and seen the evidence of my strange timing. Still dark.


Three sharp raps on my bedroom window, above the air conditioner, in quick succession. My eyes widened, attempting to get a glimpse of whoever was out there. Unfortunately, the shades and curtains were drawn, nothing to see. I waited for the person to knock again, but nothing. I was paralyzed in sheer terror, too afraid to risk the person outside knowing where we were inside to wake up The Hubs, who slept peacefully until his alarm went off at 6:00, frightening me all over again.

So how do I know I wasn't dreaming? The cat lying between us, terrified of strangers, bolted off the bed and into the dark recesses somewhere in the rest of the house. How do I know it was the window? Glass sounds different from wood. How do I know it was the window above the air conditioner? I tested it. It's impossible to tap on the windows through the screens and that's the only window on the south side of the house with no screen.

I told The Hubs about it the next evening, and he was insistent that we do a window and door check: "If it happens again, wake me up." I posted an update on Facebook asking if this had ever happened to anyone else in Conwag. No one. One of my colleagues later commented that it was probably a teenaged prank (I'm paraphrasing for both our sakes), which seemed reasonable to me. And so I forgot about it as a one-time occurrence.

Until this morning at approximately 5:00.

How do I know it was 5:00? The weather forecasters in this state are an excitable bunch and they tend to go a little overboard in their predictions. Two weeks ago, we were all supposed to be building an ark. I didn't bother and nothing came of it. Last night, we were warned to haul the mattress down the stairs of the cellar and sleep with the spiders. Sorry for mixing metaphors (you didn't get that little "overboard" and "ark" thing, did you?), but "Wolf" has been cried too many times this season, so I went to bed as usual. Not wanting to tempt fate too much, I shut and locked all the windows but the one in the bedroom and put my phone underneath my pillow. As luck would have it, at exactly 5:00 (according to my phone, anyway) my weather siren went off. I scrambled to find the phone and turn it off before the sound woke up The Hubs. I pulled down the notifications to stop the siren and see what was going on: "Flash flood watch." I thought, "For realz? It isn't even raining y'all!" Then, I put the phone back under my pillow and attempted to fall asleep. About 30 seconds later:


This morning it was five times in quick succession and on the living room window. Within milliseconds Fraidy Cat's paws speedily padded across the bedroom floor as she dove underneath the box springs.

Let's establish some facts:

  • Both events occurred around 5:00 a.m.
  • One occurred on the 5th, a Monday, the second occurred 15 days later on a Tuesday, the 20th.
  • There's enough business with the number five to unhinge me (15 being the product of 5 x 3 and 20 being the product of 5 x 4), but it's entirely possible the person behind the "rapping on my chamber window" did it on the 9th, 13th (which is a prime number, and, therefore, not strange), and the 14th as well, and I slept through it.
  • Regardless of my preoccupation with numbers, it seems this person may have a reason, other than gaslighting me, for being out at 5:00 in the morning which gives her/him legitimate cover: a paper deliverer? a runner? someone out walking the dog?
  • It's probably not someone I know because I can't think of a single friend...or enemy for that matter...who has the time or energy to get up that early to play a prank on me.
  • I'm not dreaming this: the cat heard what I heard both times.
  • Whatever the person wants, it is not to actually contact me or The Hubs. If it were, the person would knock a second and possibly a third time to try to rouse us.
  • The person responds to important changes in the situation. Remember, last night, because of the threat of rain, I shut all the windows, save one: the bedroom. Additionally, the curtains and shades of that window were open, so I might have been able to hear our perpetrator as he or she approached and I definitely would have been able to see her or him...especially since I was awake...so the person tapped a different window...one I didn't have a direct line of sight to.
  • And it's this last fact that sets me a little unglued. The Hubs never woke up, even through my phone's siren. But I did. I was awake. And that makes me wonder if this person heard or saw the commotion with the phone and knew better than to approach the bedroom window.
I lay there watching the street from my position on the bed ready to bound to the window if I saw anyone walking down the street. After about 10 minutes, I realized that the person knows where we sleep and wouldn't have risked walking past the bedroom window.

You may wonder why I didn't wake The Hubs.

What's he going to do? Go out and shoot someone? Or equally worse, get himself shot?

No, I've got a closed-off front porch with a wraparound view and a better idea.

So, you tell me...paranoid? Or justified?

1 comment:

  1. I don't think it's crazy at all--this is a total mystery. I'm wondering if whoever it was was out in the rain, though. I mean, it rained a lot--it seems odd someone would stay out for so long in it. But maybe not.