Saturday, August 18, 2007

The horror, the horror

Do you want to hear a tale of woe? Of unreasoning fear and humiliating indignities? Of moments of black comedy that gutted me?

I'm being melodramatic here, and none of you should worry - I'm fine, healthy, nobody has died. However, I have gone through and am continuing to endure a trauma that seems to be affecting me much more than any rational look would indicate, and that is of course one of the reasons it's so interesting (though unfortunately extremely unpleasant).

By way of introduction to this story, an embarrassing admission, which some of you may already be aware of: I am scared of bats. Phobic, really. I thought I might be over it, but after last night and the way I continue to feel, I clearly am not. And it's interesting to see how one can be cruising through a decent patch, healthy, active, and suddenly a minor display of nature's bounty combined with a personal quirk undoes one almost completely.

Last night I was finishing my supper, around 8:30 or so, and I hear a noise in the corner of my living room. This first thing I always think when hearing an unknown rustling in my living space is bat, and might heart started thumping. I went over to the corner, where I have several book cases and CD shelves set up, and after a minute of trying to see back there I heard the unmistakable squeaking of a bat and a moment later it launched out from behind a bookcase and started diving and winging about my living room in it's floppy, terrifying way.

I freaked out. I opened my door frantically, which I was standing next to, leapt out into the hall and slammed the door shut behind me. About five seconds later I realized I had locked myself out without my phone, wallet or shoes (or keys, of course, which I haven't made copies of yet to stash).

That was not a nice moment. I didn't particularly want to get back into my apartment right then, but…For a little while I think I was just in shock with the sudden turn of events that had left me with no options that I could see at that moment. I just couldn't believe that I was actually in that situation.

Not liking to impose on neighbors, and thinking maybe I could figure something out, I spent about 45 minutes or an hour trying to get back into my apartment without breaking a window. No luck, no luck. Meanwhile I watched the bat flitting around and crawling about my blinds.

Finally I broke down and woke up my next door neighbor who lent me the use of his phone and suggested that I call the fire department. God bless the fire department and civil servants everywhere. They came, with a full crew and a truck and an off-duty police officer and got out a ladder and got into my apartment through a bedroom window. The fireman walked through my room and opened my door, dodging the bat, and came back down. I quickly went upstairs, peeked into my apartment, saw the coast was clear for a moment and went in to grab my keys, phone, wallet and some shoes. Then I fled back outside.

One of the fireman recommended that I leave the window open for a while and watch from outside as the bat should quickly find its way back to the great outdoors. My family had tried that before with success, and it's much less traumatic and friendly than trying to capture or kill it, so I thanked him, they drove off, and I settled down to watch my window.

For a half hour or so I watched the bat periodically flit back and forth across my bedroom, willing it unsuccessfully to escape. After a bit it disappeared for a little while, and then to my numb shock I watched a second bat fly into my apartment. Talk about a Homer Simpson Moment. D'oh! It flew around for a while, but did not manage to fly back out. This is a pretty big window, open wide! It's like they wanted to stay in there. Maybe the bug hunting inside was good.

After watching for another few minutes, both bats disappeared for a little bit and I walked up my back steps to peek into my living room and kitchen. I saw one bat hanging from the ceiling, but nothing else. I decided the coast was clear enough for the moment and went back around and through my front entrance and into my room to get a couple things, as I had decided by this point to spend the night somewhere else. I was reaching the limit of my endurance, and stress and anxiety was flooding through my system, making me nearly ill. As I left my apartment I saw both bats, one still hanging from the ceiling and the other flying around my kitchen. I drove to where I work and spent a completely sleepless night there - even if it had been a feather bed I never would have gotten a single wink.

When I finally got up, I left a message with Newton Animal Control, and later in the morning we met at my place. We quickly located the one bat and he neatly snagged it in his net and set it free outside, and then we unsuccessfully searched the apartment for the other.

That's where things stand now. I'm at work, and I know that there is probably still a bat in my apartment that will come out later this evening. I guess the only thing to do is go back and wait for it to show, open a window again and hope it leaves, and hope more bats don't enter. If it doesn't show, that's even worse; I'll never relax again in my apartment, always expecting it to pop up at any moment. Right now I feel like I'll never relax there again anyway, now that I know that this is a bat house (I know that it didn't come in through a window, or at least 90% sure - because of my bat phobia, I'm always very careful about windows and screens).

Am I overreacting? Of course. Is there anything I can do about it? Probably, but it doesn't feel like it at this moment. Right now, I feel like I've lost my apartment, my place of peace and repose - all because of a stupid little bat that I still have to face later on this evening.

With some bit of self-awareness, I can also see that I'm not really afraid of the bat - I'm afraid of being afraid of the bat. We have nothing to fear but fear itself, right? I know that as long as I am careful not to handle the bat it will not hurt me and in fact will go out of its way to avoid hitting me. I am afraid of the fear, of the surprise and shock, of the anxiety. I am afraid!

Aggghhh, please wish me luck.


Meghan said...

Oh Brian, What can I say? At least you didn't bash it to death with a broom. I would imagine that this will be a rare occurance, so I really wouldn't worry too much about your peaceful abode being destroyed. That said, having once slept in a place where I had seen an enormous snake only hours before, I can relate to that agitated jumpiness about whether the feared creature will return. Anyway, keep us posted! (it can't be any worse that the house in Oberlin, can it?)

Brian C. Kenney said...

Wow, where was the snake place? What kind of snake was it? That trumps my story.