Bats in My Belfry
After a particularly hairy break-up with my very own, personal, live-in toxic narcissist, I moved 45 minutes away to a tiny 2 BR walk-up just across the river from the college where I was teaching. Moving is one of the most exhausting and debilitating exercises, and it does not get better because you’ve done it a lot. Ending a 10-year-plus relationship with a “soul-mate” who had informed me that he had “never loved me,” and restarting my life was like ripping out my own entrails through my red, runny nose. Moving meant pushing the gooey mess left of my colon into tons of heavy boxes and dragging each and all up Mount Everest.
My friends had pitched in with the moving, hauled my bed frame and mattress up to the 2nd floor apartment and even set it up. We found sheets and pillowcases so I’d at least have a place to sleep once I calmed down from the hyperactivity of moving. So, after dealing with my new landlord, arranging for utilities and satellite TV and so on, trying to find the barest necessities (like coffee, cups, towels, coffee maker, etc.) hidden in the over-heated, taped treasure boxes covering every inch of horizontal space, I felt like an old wash rag, rung out and hung out to dry.
My friends left to deal with their own lives and I ordered pizza.
I set up the TV and the floor lamp and found paper plates and grabbed a beer from the tiny fridge. I love new pizza joints, but always try their pepperoni and extra cheese first. If they can’t do the king of pizzas, I assume that their culinary ineptitude will simply escalate with more exotic concoctions. As I awaited the pizza, I washed up and tried to find something to watch on TV—on the VCR or DVD player, really, since the SAT wasn’t set up. Luckily, I found a murder mystery I hadn’t seen—or it might have been a vampire flick…
The pizza arrived, I paid and tipped the delivery “boy,” who was closer to middle-age than boyhood, and he welcomed me to the neighborhood. Sitting on my nearly-new sofa, watching a movie with lots of dark, steamy alleys, moody music and an occasional shriek, I tasted the excellent pizza, washing it down with a Bud Light (or two). It was an old-fashioned, home-made pizza with hand-rolled dough, real Mozzarella and Provolone cheese, and large slices of pepperoni. Just smelling the thing made me put on 20 pounds! Ah, sweet relief…
As I returned from the kitchen with a second helping of beer and pizza, a dark body swooped down at my head. “Shriek! What was that?” I asked no one. Maybe I had heat stroke or something; it was a dreadfully hot day and I had no air conditioning in the upstairs apartment cobbled together from an old general-store storage room. The 5×3 foot bathroom opened onto the living room, and one bedroom was on the other side of the living room (down two steps). My very long but narrow kitchen was the largest room, with tons of light from nearly wall-to-wall windows. At the opposite end of the kitchen lay the other bedroom, used for storage. After 9 pm, the only light pouring through the windows came from the corner streetlight and the color-changing stoplights.
I looked from wall to ceiling to floor. Nothing. I checked the bathroom, bedrooms, kitchen. Nada. Was I just wiped out mentally from the brutal emotional battery my ex had treated me to during my last week in hell? I sat down, grabbed my pizza, and once again a dark body swooped at my head—or the pizza—and I was now officially terrified. What the devil was that? Again, I did a thorough survey of the apartment, finding nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nada. Nada y pues nada… as Hemingway would put it. The nada, the nothingness of my life opened like the abyss. If I gazed too deeply, I knew it would swallow me up, just as Nietzsche had warned.
I turned on every light and searched high and low, under furniture, in drawers and closets and cupboards, even the empty cupboard under the built-in bookcase in the living room. Nothing. By now, I was sweating profusely, from the exertions of the day but also my recent repeated runs through the rooms and the fear that began to scream at me (in my head). Outside, it was pitch dark. Inside, the apartment was so quiet I could hear my clock radio ticking in the other room. What in hell had I got myself into? Maybe I should find a funny show to watch…
Should I call the police? Without knowing what was going on, and beginning to fear for my sanity, after escaping a man who had been systematically gas-lighting me for the past few years, I had no idea where to turn. I was certainly NOT going to call HIM. My friends had done yeoman’s service for me that day so I wasn’t going to disturb them again. If I sat still, the thing would fly and swoop just as it did if I stood up to move around the apartment. It could be a bird, I thought, but this thing moved much faster than any featherweight I had ever seen. And a bird would cry out, wouldn’t it?
The ordeal continued, for I knew that I would not sleep that night unless (until) I discovered what was going on. Desperate, I called my new landlord and asked for help. Twenty minutes later, he and his wife arrived, he with a broom and she carrying a tennis racket! I wasn’t sure now if I was in a Marx Brothers film or in the Twilight Zone. Or, maybe I truly had lost my mind and this was all a hallucination! Maybe Edward had finally succeeded in driving me bonkers. I wanted my Dad, but he was 1000s of miles away in Florida. I didn’t want my Mom that night, since she would have given me the “I-told-you-so” speech for the zillionth time.
My life now relied upon “the kindness of strangers.” I sat on the couch in a funk as my new landlords searched the “empty” apartment. They found nothing, and then I noticed the odd looks they were exchanging and the guarded glances turned toward me. The questioning began anew: “What happened? When? Who or what was it? Are you sure? How much beer have you had? Etc. ad nauseum.” They must have thought I had had a breakdown or something. I began to suspect the same thing. What could any of us think?
The wife sat in a chair, talking to me in a soothing voice as he wandered the apartment again, with only a tennis racket for protection. She left the room to see what he was doing in the spare room. That’s when I began to smell the odor of meat cooking. Frying, really. I called for the landlord, frightened that the noises were coming from a fire within the walls perhaps. I hoped frantically that they too would smell the burning flesh. If not, I might have to resign myself to living in a padded room.
They noticed the smell but no flying, swooping monster appeared to verify my claims. They asked if I had left the stove on, when it was obvious that I had just ordered a pizza, and hadn’t unpacked any cookware, for crying out loud! I was now officially annoyed, a feeling that was beginning to overwhelm the feelings of fear. Time passed, punctuated by my ticking clock radio. They did one more quick look everywhere before leaving.
As we stood at the door, my incredulous landlord asked me to turn off the floor lamp. He then reached inside the glass shade which was open at the top and screwed to the pole part of the lamp, revealing the source of my fright. A baby bat! With all of the uproar of moving and opening and closing doors and cupboards and cabinets, it must have been awakened in some dark hidey-hole and got disoriented, perhaps. My landlord speculated that it must have landed on the floor lamp bulb for warmth and was disturbed by my movements in and out of the living room.
Case solved! Unfortunately, the “cooking” smell turned out to be the poor little creature being burned to death by my floor lamp! So, I really did have “bats in the belfry” after all, but this one was real, and I wasn’t crazy! At least, not that night. What I had heard and experienced was real, and I was relieved that I had not simply imagined it all. What a story! I couldn’t wait to share it with Edward…oh, wait. He was no longer in my life. We had nothing to share any more. That was a good thing, right? Right?
© 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD