I have issues with a lot of things, but claustrophobia isn’t one of them. In fact, I consider waking up buried under blankets, a comforter, the poofy green quilt my mom made for me while I was in college, and a pile of spare pillows to be a pretty ideal start to a day. And today, by all indication, was going to start well.
When I woke up I was toasty warm and slightly smothered. It was nice, so I luxuriated for a moment or two before pulling the covers down enough to see my alarm clock. It was five o’five in the morning. The alarm wouldn’t go off for another two hours.
Well, actually, it wouldn’t go off at all. I don’t like alarms, so I reached out from under the covers and turned it off. I’ve had that clock for five years, and it hasn’t gone off once. Remember how I said I have issues with lots of things? Alarms are one of them. Other people might wake up early, look at the clock and think: sweet, ten more minutes, and go back to sleep. I’ll look at it and go: dammit, that thing’s going to go off in two more hours. Screw it, may as well start my day now.
Seriously, I hate alarms. I’ve even been known to sit by the microwave so I can hit cancel when it reaches one second, in order to prevent it from beeping at me. Slowly irradiating myself seems a small price to pay.
So anyway, I extricated myself from my bed, leaving it looking like the nest of some large burrowing creature, slipped on my fuzzy slippers and padded over to the bathroom to continue my morning routine. I am a fan of routines. If I know what’s going to happen next then I don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen next. If I do have to worry, then I worry hardcore, and a serious freak out, along with scattered panic attacks and bouts of paranoia, become inevitable. Not pleasant to admit, but what can I say? I think I know myself pretty well. And any surprises, unforeseen issues, or changes in routine go on my ‘issues’ list.
I live in a studio apartment. It’s small, but the rent is cheap and I don’t mind small spaces. It’s also on the ground floor of a one story building, so I don’t have to worry about crashing through the floor into the apartment below or having someone crash through my ceiling because they were too enthusiastic about stomping around to annoy their downstairs neighbor. Of course, since it’s a studio apartment on the ground floor I never, ever open the curtains. I have one of those big sliding glass window/door things leading onto the patio. Which is kinda stupid, since my front door is right next to it, but hey, I’m not an architect. I mean, it’s totally indefensible and in the event of a zombie apocalypse all of these apartments are going to be the equivalent of canned food, but I guess it’s aesthetic or something. I know this falls under ‘bouts of paranoia,’ but the thought that any random passerby could look in and see the entirety of my home is just creepy.
It’s not that I really think someone would want to peep on me, intellectually. I mean, sure, I like to walk around in my pajamas at five in the morning. They’re comfy, and they’re what I wore to bed. They’re also the flannel equivalent of full-body powered battle armor, which is to say: non-sexy. Which is fine, because neither am I. In fact, I’m twiggy enough that from a distance I’m occasionally mistaken for a boy. And I’m okay with that. Sex? Tops my issues list. No thank you.
Really, the curtains thing is just because Dad always told me to be wary of pervy opportunists, and I just have a thing about privacy. I don’t even have an account on any of those social networking sites that got so popular while I was in college. Besides, I can’t expect a peeper to know there’s nothing peep-worthy in my apartment until after the initial peeping, so it’s better to just cut that option off preemptively, right?
Anyway, my apartment is divided into two rooms. The main room is split into a kitchen and my bedroom/living space by a small counter and some hanging cabinets. And the second room, which even gets its own door, is my bathroom, just to the right as you enter the kitchen. The bathroom is also small, since that’s the theme of my apartment, with just enough space to cram in the necessities of a restroom. There isn’t even a tub, just a shower stall – and yes, I added a few locks to the bathroom door in order to stave off some Hitchcockian dread. I’ve never even seen that movie, but that particular scene is famous enough to freak me out a little anyway.
I flipped on the light and turned to the mirror over my sink. I’m scrawny, and about average height, I guess. I have blue eyes and blonde hair. I try to keep it short because I don’t really know what to do with it when it isn’t. It tends to look like I’ve just woken up even after I’ve combed the snarls out and been on my feet for hours – I suspect that close proximity to my thought processes has caused it to soak up a certain level of erraticity. I’ve given up on getting it to look good. It’s just going to do whatever the hell it wants, anyway.
After dealing with the inevitable morning tangles I scrubbed my face and brushed my teeth, then went back into the kitchenette for breakfast, which consisted of toaster-pancakes, microwaveable bacon, a raspberry yogurt and scrambled eggs – because I can never successfully make them over easy. I picked up the manga I’ve been reading – that’s a graphic novel drawn in the Japanese anime style, for the uninitiated – off my shelf while I was waiting on the toast and bacon, and I read while I ate. It was a good way to spend one of those extra hours I had from waking up early. Which is why I do this every morning.
I live alone. I would have liked to have had a dog, since there’s nothing quite like having a large, loyal canine on hand to reassure a girl that any would-be perverts, burglars, or psychotic shower murderers that come by will get their faces eaten off. But living in such a small apartment wouldn’t have been fair to a big dog, and a little one would take way too long with the face-eating to really contribute to my peace of mind. My friend Megan tried to convince me to get a cat, since they’re supposed to be independent-yet-companionable, but I realized that would mean I’d basically be coming home every evening and locking myself in a box with a small, furry predator that had no real interest in keeping me alive – which struck me as a losing proposition.
So, yeah, I live alone. Which means I double-checked that the curtains were sealed and that the front door was locked and dead bolted before I locked myself into the bathroom to brush my teeth again and take my morning shower.
I like long, hot showers. I like to soak up the steamy warmth and I like to feel the spray of water cascading over me. I’m also paranoid and mildly terrified that someone will try to come in while I’m indisposed, so I always take my showers as fast as humanly possible. I blame communal bathrooms in college. And being paranoid. And the fact that…well, most people, when they’re growing up, apparently get this talk about the birds and the bees. I got fairly regular lectures about the defenseless fluffy bunny and the roving packs of starving, rabid timber wolves. (Side note: Intellectually I know it’s unfair and uncalled for, but my default assumption about the character of any guy I meet is of this slightly deranged, highly aggressive roving carnalvore. And it’s worse for the made-up ones I haven’t met, who might actually be out there wandering around, looking for someone to savage. But I’m a dog person and when I went to the zoo and actually saw timber wolves for the first time, I thought they were adorable.)
I guess most girls get embarrassed or annoyed when they bring their boyfriends around and their dads make vague comments about their gun collections, but I never had because: A) I’ve never had a boyfriend. And: B) I’ve always found Dad’s arsenal to be vaguely comforting in its potential to abruptly solve any problem involving home invasion.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I really started to realize just how much paranoid-crazy I’d been spoon fed growing up. In retrospect, I think a lot of the things I took to heart were spoken in jest. But I don’t know if I think that because it’s true, or if I think that because I don’t want to think badly of my folks and there’s no real denying that some of the things they’ve told me made me come out a little messed up. Or maybe I’ve always been screwed up in the head, and that’s why I took things seriously that I shouldn’t have? I don’t know, but it’s easier to deal with things if I can just say I’m a little screwy and whatever I’m freaking out about is my own damn fault.
So, yeah, I knew I could take all the time I wanted in the shower. Intellectually. I know a lot of things, ‘intellectually,’ and that has no real bearing on how I feel about them. After all, two sets of locked doors? Plenty of lead time if someone tries to break in. Unless they smash through the patio window. But then, okay, I’d still have one locked door, so no problem. Unless they brought a crowbar or something to pry it open…. Okay, my overactive imagination doesn’t help, either.
So, yeah, I cut the shower as short as humanly possible so I wouldn’t give myself a panic attack and ruin the otherwise wonderful start to my day. After drying off and unlocking the bathroom door I poked my head out to make sure no one had managed to sneak in by some way I hadn’t accounted for, and then hurriedly got dressed.
I don’t have a lot of closet space, but I don’t really need it. Back in college my roommate did, so I gave her mine and got in the habit of buying clothes that could be folded and shelved in stacked milk crates. After I graduated, my friend Megan (who was the aforementioned roommate for three and a half years) tried to get me to expand my wardrobe. She failed, but she did convince me to invest in some real shelving. So, tucked under the counter ledge on the living room side of my apartment I have two side-by-side shelving units, each of which makes a three-by-three grid of storage spaces. I keep my clothes folded like I always have, and I get dressed by just going down the row and picking things out.
It’s a system I like. I can tell at a glance if I’m running low on something like t-shirts (row two, column three) or sweaters (row one, column six) and I figure I’ll be one up on everyone else when the robots enslave humanity and we’re all getting dressed off of assembly lines.
My pajamas went into a hamper at the end of the shelves and I picked out some knit socks, plain panties and my pastel blue bra (I’m sufficiently under-endowed that I don’t really need bras. I always wear them anyway, though, because the padded ones make it look like I do), a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved blouse and my blue button-up sweater to wear. New Year’s was only a couple days away, and it was still pretty chilly out.
Then, since I didn’t really have to dress to impress at work, I added my comfiest sneakers to the mix, grabbed my purse and a chocolate bar from the stash I keep in a drawer by the bed, threw on my jacket and looked around the apartment to see if I was forgetting anything.
Not really, it seemed. The promise of waking up buried under my covers had come true; it had been the perfect start to a perfect day. I really should have stayed in the shower longer and just ate the inevitable panic attack, though. Because now all I could think was: Whatever the demon Murphy is going to unleash after this lead up is going to be frikken huge.
So, suitably anxious and slightly queasy, I picked out another manga to read and went out to the parking lot to wait on my ride into work.