Sunday, November 3, 2013

Haunted Houses and Haunting Flights

In which I recount two conversations: one of which with one who is paid to be unsavory, and one who does it for free.

Last week, in honor of Halloween being without contest the best month of the year in Colorado, I went home to visit family. While I was there, my parents and I went to a haunted house, which we had never done together before, and which my parents hadn't done in decades. 

I am not good at haunted houses, even though I enjoy them. I panic fairly easily, and when I panic, I flail, and there may or may not have been a time when I flailed in such a way that it could have possibly been construed that I maybe kind of punched a young man in the face when he crept up behind me in a haunted maze that one time. Maybe. 

Despite my lack of general stoic-ness, and my mother's general trepidation, we went, and we had great fun. All the spooks and bleeding artistry made my dad laugh, and every time my mom and I jumped backwards in a Manly Family Flailing Panic, he laughed harder. At one point, though, there was a room with a coffin on the wall. The attendee, all white makeup and ragged top hat, wouldn't let us pass until one of us tried it. Mom and I clung to each other in adrenaline-fueled refusal, so dad attempted the feat. Unfortunately, the coffin was approximately three feet too small for him, and his knees stuck out either side like stork knees. Mom was still shaking her head, so I sort-of-walked, sort-of-fell forward. I was shepherded into the coffin with a zombie flourish, but I found time to test the back before I entered, thinking it was cloth or a door that would open to another part of the maze. It wasn't; it was solid, so I turned around and allowed the lid to be closed in my face. It latched in place, compacting the down of my jacket around my thighs. What followed was a beautiful, vibrant example of how my rapier wit is paralyzed by even the smallest, most insignificant levels of panic. 

Him, in a hissing, gravelly tone: What's your name?
Me, in a cracking, adolescent boy voice: Avalon. 
Him: Where you from, Avalon?
Me: Here. (Meaning Colorado.)
Him: ...You're from Hell?
Me, brainless: Yes, apparently. 
Him: You're from Hell? 
Me: Um.
Him: Well, okay then. Do you like rats?
Me, honestly: I don't mind them, no. 
Him: Muah ha ha ha!
*jets of air shoot up my pant legs, clearly meant to resemble the adorable little claws of rats, but feeling more like small jets of air*
Me: Uh. 
Him: If you want this coffin, just let me know. *opens the door with a dramatic swish of cape*
Me, realizing I'm all alone in this room and my family is no where to be seen: SHIT. 

My parents, of course, were in the next room, but that moment of aloneness and panic was all acid gray and shivers. 

Now, Rat Man was paid to be unsavory. He was pretty genial, and my unintentional profession of being from the Pit threw him off, but the creepier I found him, the better he was doing his job. This next story is something else entirely. 

Two days after the haunted house, I returned to New Orleans via a Monday-night flight. In line to board, I was wearing a puffy coat, a hat, and really stupidly large headphones. I was also reading a book. Everything about my stance, appearance, and prompts said, "Do not bother me. I am not interested in interacting with you. Please leave me alone."

One young man, with a pointy goatee and billowing sweat pants large enough to hide several little people in the legs unnoticed, did not understand my signals. He was a down home New Orleans boy, who "used to stay Uptown, but moved to Mississippi a while back to cut trees." He was "the fastest guy they got up down there," and I'm not sure what that means, but good for him. 

Through some profoundly unlucky happenstance, we ended up sitting together, him in the aisle, me in the middle. I had my music turned up and my book upon as we taxied, and when the lights dimmed, he leaned really close to me and offered to turn my overhead light on for me. Even though I was confident that my own arm could, in fact, cover that distance without much injury, I said I was going to sleep. And I did, for a while, but I woke up when his leg began halving and halving again my personal space. There was a tiny Korean woman on the other side of me, who was really nice, but spoke no English, and kept sneezing violently, so I had no safe space to lean into. 

It was not a good beginning, and what follows is a list of actually really real things Redneck Goattee Boy did on that flight: 

• Expanded light a liquid to fill up the space in the aisle and half of my seat while sleeping. 
• Snored like a hippo. 
• Leaned over my laptop while I was watching a movie with my headphones on, and shouted, "WHAT MOVIE YA WATCHIN'?" When I told him, he said, equally loudly, "OH, YEAH, I HEARD OF THAT. I DIDN'T SEE IT THOUGH. I THINK IT CAME OUT WHILE I WAS IN PRISON LAST SUMMER."
• When he flat-out asked me if I had a boyfriend "in the city," I told him I was gay (with apologies to LGBT everywhere, but I really needed him to stop talking to me) and he replied, "Oh, no way. Really? My girlfriend in Mississippi is bi, and we pick up a lot of chicks together." Then he winked. No, really. 
• Pulled out his duffle bag and stuffed his mouth with half a container of chew. 
• Convinced the flight attendant to give him a whole container of the little cheese cracker bags. He must have eaten 14 of them. 
• Upon landing, he got his things together quickly and explained, "I gotta get outta New Orleans quick. The cops told me if they ever catch me again here, they'd put me in prison till I'm old and gray." Then, like an afterthought: "I hope they didn't search my bag. There's, like, thirty bottles of Xanax in there."